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It’s the great pumpkin FRED graph, Charlie Brown

Producer price index data for pumpkins and other treats

Happy Halloween from the FRED Team!

Economic data can be scary and full of tricks…but it also includes some treats, like this fun FRED series on the price of pumpkins. And we couldn’t help ourselves: We used FRED’s frighteningly awesome graphing tools to “seasonally adjust” this graph in all the right colors.

This data series, by the way, is a recent addition to FRED: goods-level producer price index (PPI) data used in the consumer price index (CPI). The graph obviously looks deserted in places. That is, data points are missing pretty much throughout the year, except in September and October. But if you think about it, that’s when pumpkins are MUCH more popular on the market, right? One simple observation is that the price of pumpkins has been remarkably stable for the past few years. Nothing scary here.

The second spooky graph, below, is all about inflation (price changes) for treats. Specifically, sugary sweets. The two CPI series in green and orange show how costs have increased for consumers; the PPI series in brown shows that costs have increased for producers, too; and the IP series in yellow shows how much production of sweets has changed. This (candy) bar graph reveals some sustained inflation for these goods, recently well above the 2% target the Fed sets for overall inflation. Depending on your sweet tooth, this might be a scary story after all.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, simply search for “pumpkins,” select the series, and click “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Format” tab to select graph type “Bar” and play with the color choices. For the second graph, search for and select one of the series; from the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to add the second series by searching for it in the search box. Repeat the search and selection process for the other two series. Now, select units “Percent change from year ago” and apply to all. And, once again, play with the colors in the “Format” tab to make it as spooky as possible.

Suggested by Yvetta Fortova, Keith Taylor, and Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CUSR0000SEFR, CUUR0000SEFR02, IPG3113S, PCU31133113, WPU01130236

Who holds what wealth?

More from the Survey of Consumer Finances

A week ago, we reported on the evolution of wealth for different classes of households, divided by wealth quantiles: top 1%, next 9%, next 40%, and bottom 50%. This time we look at what their wealth consists of—again, leveraging the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances. The first graph shows the distribution of total assets across the four groups. As mentioned in the earlier post, the first three groups have a similar share of assets, despite having vastly different population sizes, with the bottom 50% having much less.

The second graph shows the same distribution, but this time restricted to real estate assets. Now it looks quite different, with the top 1% holding significantly less (as a share) while the bottom 50% are doing better.

The third graph shows that this is even more pronounced with consumer durables (cars and household appliances, for example). As with real estate, everybody needs some, and there is only so much that the richest can buy.

So where are the assets of the richest coming from? The next graph shows that they own a much larger proportion of financial assets, with the bottom half of the population owning almost none.

The picture is even more dramatic with non-corporate assets (mostly private ownership of non-public enterprises), where the top 1% own over 50%. You can explore more data from the release table, but the general picture is clear: The least wealthy mostly hold assets that are essential in some ways: housing and consumer durables. The wealthiest hold assets through financial vehicles or stakes in businesses.

How these graphs were created: The procedure is the same for each graph. Start from the Levels of Wealth by Wealth Percentile Groups release table, check the series you want, and click “Add to Graph.” From the Edit Graph” menu, open the “Format” tab to choose graph type “Area” with stacking “Percent.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: WFRBLB50081, WFRBLB50083, WFRBLB50084, WFRBLB50085, WFRBLB50098, WFRBLN09027, WFRBLN09029, WFRBLN09030, WFRBLN09031, WFRBLN09044, WFRBLN40054, WFRBLN40056, WFRBLN40057, WFRBLN40058, WFRBLN40071, WFRBLT01000, WFRBLT01002, WFRBLT01003, WFRBLT01004, WFRBLT01017

Who absorbs the price jumps in raw materials?

PPI price pass-through in the production process

FRED has a treasure trove of data to help us understand the pricing of goods in the U.S. For example, there’s the producer price index (PPI) and the consumer price index (CPI). The PPI measures how much producers charge for their products, while the CPI measures how much households pay for those products. For this post, we’ll stick with the PPI.

The PPI measures not only sales of final products to businesses but also sales that happen throughout the production process: raw goods, intermediate goods, components, etc.

Now, the beauty of FRED is that you can choose your data and the way you display it. The PPI data above are organized in four distinct stages along the production process, from raw materials to final product. What’s striking in the graph is that we can clearly see fluctuations in the cost of raw materials for stages 1, 2, and 3 but not for stage 4. Stage 4 is quite steady. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industries assigned to stage 4 primarily produce output that is consumed as “final demand,” which may have obstacles the other three stages don’t have.* For whatever reason, the producers at this stage absorb the price fluctuations of inputs—which is something in economics we call “limited pass-through.” A similar mechanism occurs when fluctuations in exchange rates or import tariffs affect foreign goods: Not all input price changes are reflected in retail price changes for those goods.

Some goods and services consumed by “final demand” businesses at stage 4 are motor vehicle parts, commercial electric power, plastic construction products, biological products, beef and veal, engineering services, machinery and equipment wholesaling, long distance motor carrying, and legal services.

How this graph was created: Starting from the PPI release tables, select Table 7 and then select the series you want displayed. Finally, click “Add to Graph.”

*By the way, the BLS describes the first three stages as follows: Industries assigned to stage 3 primarily produce output consumed by stage 4 industries; industries assigned to stage 2 primarily produce output consumed by stage 3 industries; and industries assigned to stage 1 produce output primarily consumed by stage 2 industries.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: WPSID511, WPSID521, WPSID531, WPSID541


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