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## U.S. Consumer Prices Remain Below Expectations

By Lucia Mutikani

### AI legalese decoder‘s Role in Analyzing Economic Data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer prices increased less than expected in April, suggesting that inflation resumed its downward trend at the start of the second quarter in a boost to financial market expectations for a September interest rate cut.

Hopes of the Federal Reserve starting its easing cycle this year were further bolstered by other data on Wednesday showing retail sales were unexpectedly flat last month. The reports suggested that domestic demand was cooling, which will be welcomed by officials at the U.S. central bank as they try to engineer a “soft-landing” for the economy.

“The economic data are picture perfect in favor of interest rate cuts,” said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at FWDBONDS. “The country is not out of the woods from the threat of inflation, but we can start to see the end of the forest.”

### Impact on Consumer Spending and Policy Debates

The consumer price index rose 0.3% last month after advancing 0.4% in March and February, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The higher cost of living has detracted from the economy’s resilience, and is a campaign theme for the Nov. 5 presidential election.

President Joe Biden said prices were still too high but argued that his agenda, which includes building two million homes and taking on Big Pharma to lower prescription drug prices “will give families breathing room.” Donald Trump’s campaign blamed inflation on the Biden administration’s policies and touted the former president’s America First agenda of low taxes, lower prices, and higher wages.

### Inflation Trends for Housing and Food Prices

The cost of shelter, which includes rents, increased 0.4% for the third straight month. Gasoline prices shot up 2.8%. These two categories contributed over 70% of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Food prices were unchanged. Prices at the supermarket fell 0.2%, with eggs dropping 7.3%. Meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables, as well as nonalcoholic beverages, were also cheaper.

But cereals and bakery products cost more, while prices for dairy products rose marginally.

### Expectations and Forecasts

In the 12 months through April, the CPI increased 3.4% after climbing 3.5% in March. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI gaining 0.4% on the month and 3.4% year-on-year. The annual increase in consumer prices has slowed from a peak of 9.1% in June 2022.

Inflation accelerated in the first quarter amid strong domestic demand after moderating for much of last year. Last month’s slowdown was a relief after data on Tuesday showed a jump in producer prices in April. Inflation is being driven by providers of services like motor vehicle insurance, housing, and healthcare catching up to higher costs.

### Impact on Markets and Financial Trends

Economists expect price pressures to ebb this quarter, and inflation to gradually move toward the Fed’s 2% target as the labor market is cooling. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday “I expect that inflation will move back down … on a monthly basis to levels that were more like the lower readings that we were having last year.”

Financial markets saw a roughly 73% probability of a rate cut in September, up from 69% before the data. A few economists anticipate the Fed will start lowering borrowing costs in July.

The central bank early this month left its benchmark overnight interest rate unchanged in the current 5.25%-5.50% range, where it has been since July. The Fed has raised its policy rate by 525 basis points since March 2022.

Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher. The dollar fell against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices rose.

### Rents and Service Cost Trends

Rents increased 0.4%. Owners’ equivalent rent (OER), a measure of the amount homeowners would pay to rent or would earn from renting their property, also gained 0.4% after a similar rise in March and February. Market rents have been trending lower and that is expected to show in the CPI data this year.

Motor vehicle insurance increased 1.8% after surging 2.6% in March. There were also increases in the prices of personal care, recreation, and education. The cost of healthcare rose 0.4%, reflecting an increase in hospital services.

### Decoding Economic Data Using AI legalese decoder

AI legalese decoder can help in analyzing the complex legal and financial jargon present in economic reports and news articles. By using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, the decoder can provide simplified explanations and insights into economic trends, helping individuals and businesses make informed decisions based on accurate information.

Overall, the analysis of the U.S. consumer price trends highlights the importance of monitoring inflation rates, consumer spending patterns, and government policy responses to economic challenges. As the economy continues to navigate through uncertainties, tools like AI legalese decoder can offer valuable assistance in understanding and interpreting critical data for strategic planning and decision-making.

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