Key Fed inflation gauge rose 0.3% as expected in September; spending tops estimate

Inflation accelerated in September but consumer spending was even stronger than expected, according to a Commerce Department report Friday.

The core personal consumption expenditures price index, which the Federal Reserve uses as a key measure of inflation, increased 0.3% for the month, in line with the Dow Jones estimate and above the 0.1% level for August.

Even with the pickup in prices, personal spending kept up and then some, rising 0.7%, which was better than the 0.5% forecast. Personal income rose 0.3%, one-tenth of a percentage point below the estimate.

Including volatile food and energy prices, the PCE index increased 0.4%. On a year-over-year basis, core PCE increased 3.7%, one-tenth lower than August, while headline PCE was up 3.4%, the same as the prior month.

The Fed focuses more on core inflation on the belief that it provides a better snapshot of where prices are headed over the longer term. Core PCE peaked around 5.6% in early 2022 and has been on a mostly downward trek since then, though it is still well above the Fed’s 2% annual target. The Fed prefers PCE as its inflation measure as it takes into account changing consumer behavior such as substituting lower-priced goods as prices increase.

Markets mostly shrugged off the report, with stock market futures pointing slightly higher and Treasury yields mixed across the curve.

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