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Today’s third official report on U.S. inflation in April (contained in this release) was bad in no fewer than two ways. First, it confirmed the results of its two predecessors, which showed that price increases in America have begun to speed up again after months of some evidence (never terribly convincing IMO) of slowing. Second, the numbers presented in this morning’s release were those for the price index for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) – the preferred gauge of the Federal Reserve, which is Washington’s prime inflation-fighting agency.

So these discouraging statistics seem most likely to convince the Fed to continue its policy of raising interest rates high enough to weaken inflation by weakening U.S. economic growth – which risks creating a recession. Previously, the central bank was strongly hinting that it might pause in the hope that it’s already slowed economic activity enough to tame prices without producing an actual economy-wide slump (that is, engineering a “soft landing”).

Now, justifying a pause has become especially difficult because each of the four inflation measures presented in the PCE report got worse.

Headline month-to-month PCE jumped from an unrevised 0.1 percent in March to 0.4 percent and snapped a two-month string of declining sequental increases. Moreover, that April rise was the biggest since January’s 0.6 percent.

The annual headline PCE figures displayed the same trend but revealed additional bad news as well. April’s 4.4 percent result also snapped a two-month easing streak, and was the hottest annual PCE read since January’s 5.4 percent. The extra bad news? Revisions to these numbers have been slightly negative – meaning in this case that for January and February, annual headline PCE is judged to have been a bit worse than originally reported.

April also saw the end of a two-month stretch of improvement for core PCE, which strips out the results for food and energy costs because they’re volatile for reasons having little or nothing to do with the economy’s fundamental vulnerability to inflation.

The April rate of 0.4 percent was also the highest since January’s (0.6 percent), and revisions have been negative, too.

As for annual core PCE, April’s 4.7 percent pace represented an uptick from March’s 4.6 percent. But contrary to the fluctuations in the other PCE measures, annual core PCE has been stuck in the 4.6 percent-4.7 percent range for every month since last November.

By now, the main reason for all this inflation stickiness should be no mystery at all: Consumers keep spending robustly. Indeed, as always the case, today’s PCE results came along with data on personal consumption. And even when price increases are taken into account, it rebounded in April from a 0.2 percent dip in February and a flatline in March to a 0.5 percent advance.

As a result, since businesses aren’t charities, they’ll keep raising prices as long as their customers make clear their willingness to pay.

No one can doubt that the economy and therefore consumers face some important headwinds. The full effects of the Fed’s economy-slowing steps – which include both interest rate hikes and cuts in the money supply – usually take many months to appear. By all indications, the banking system weaknesses first revealed by the collapses of California-based Silicon Valley Bank and New York City’s Signature Bank are beginning to tighten the credit spigots on consumers and businesses alike. And all that money pumped into consumers’ pockets by the various government stimulus measures passed since the CCP Virus struck the nation in force are running out.

But these funds remain considerable by any realistic standard. Employment levels keep rising past their pre-pandemic peaks, so wages and salaries keep providing households with new cash flow. And even if President Biden accepts every single one of the House Republicans’ budget proposals in the current debt ceiling negotiations, federal discretionary spending (let alone outlays for entitlements like Social Security and Medicare) would continue increasing for most of the 10-year period that will be covered by a final deal. With inflation tailwinds like these blowing, too (supplemented by approaching election year pressures to keep consumers – and therefore voters – happy), I still can’t see how worrisomely high prices and price increases don’t start becoming U.S. economic features, not bugs,