(The Hill) – Annual consumer inflation dipped to 8.5% in July after hitting a 40-year high of 9.1% in June, as falling gas prices finally gave consumers a break at the pump.
But it’s not clear whether the latest dip means the U.S. economy has finally broken the back of inflation or if the lull is only temporary. Inflation has been rising rapidly since the middle of 2020 but has seen a couple of quick dips during that period, notably from July to August in 2021 and from March to April of this year.
The latest numbers from the Department of Labor show that the index for energy in July was up 32.9% annually, falling from 41.6% in June. The food index was up 10.9% annually, rising from 10.4% in June.
July core inflation, which is all goods minus the particularly volatile categories of food and energy, stayed at 5.9%.
The Federal Reserve has been hiking interest rates since March in an effort to tame inflation that the central bank and Treasury Department had initially described as “transitory.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said earlier this year that she’d been wrong about this characterization of inflation, which has proven to be a much more significant problem in the wake of global private-sector shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Markets had been preparing for news of Wednesday’s reprieve. U.S. equity futures had been trading slightly higher ahead of the report from the Department of Labor, with contracts for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq stock indices both up 0.3% in wary trading.