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Consumers’ expectations of future inflation decreased significantly in win for the Federal Reserve

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Gas prices are displayed at an Exxon gas station on July 29, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

The consumer outlook for inflation decreased significantly in July amid a sharp drop in gas prices and a growing belief that the rapid surges in food and housing also would ebb in the future.

The New York Federal Reserve’s monthly Survey of Consumer Expectations showed that respondents expect inflation to run at a 6.2% pace over the next year and a 3.2% rate for the next three years.

While those numbers are still very high by historical standards, they mark a big drop-off from the respective 6.8% and 3.6% results from the June survey.

Through June, food prices rose 10.4% over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are still expected to climb 6.7% over the next 12 months, but that’s a decline from the June survey of 2.5 percentage points, the biggest fall in a data series going back to June 2013.

Likewise, respondents see gas prices, which rose 60% over the past year, increasing at just a 1.5% pace over the next year, a slide of 4.2 percentage points from June, the second-biggest monthly decline in the survey’s history.

Finally, home prices are expected to rise 3.5% from June’s 4.4%, the lowest projected gain since November 2020.

Five-year inflation expectations also slipped, dropping 0.5 percentage points to 2.3%.

The results come as the Fed has been raising interest rates aggressively to bring down inflation running at its highest level in more than 40 years. The central bank in 2022 has raised benchmark rates four times for a total of 2.25 percentage points, and market pricing indicates a third consecutive 0.75 percentage point increase in September, according to CME Group data.

However, the New York Fed results from July might give policymakers reason to pull back if not in September then later in the year if the inflation data cooperate. The Fed targets inflation at 2% over the long run, so the projected levels in the survey remain well above the central bank’s comfort level.

Over the weekend, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said she doesn’t expect inflation to come down anytime soon and sees a need to keep pushing rates higher. San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly echoed those sentiments, saying the increases are “far from done.”

Those comments came after the BLS on Friday reported much higher numbers for payroll growth — 528,000 — and wages, with average hourly earnings jumping 5.2%.

The New York Fed survey also showed that overall household spending growth for the next year is expected to cool to 6.9%. That’s also a comparatively high number over the longer run but well below the record-high 9% result from May. The 1.5 percentage point monthly decline is the largest in the survey’s history.

Consumers also grew slightly more optimistic on stock prices during a month that saw the S&P 500 soar 9% higher, with 34.3% now expecting higher prices over the next 12 months.

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