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How housing prices have impacted PCE inflation

Two new measures of PCE inflation from the BEA

FRED recently added two new personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index data series from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis: one excluding the energy and housing categories from the all-items PCE price index and a second one excluding the food, energy, and housing categories. These series are timely additions to FRED’s substantial repository of measures of trend inflation.

The FRED graph above shows these two new PCE price index series from the BEA (blue and red lines), along with the all-items price index (green line). The data are plotted as inflation rates, or percent changes from a year ago.

Between April 2020 (the end of the COVID-19-induced recession) and roughly the last quarter of 2021, the three measures of PCE inflation moved broadly in sync. However, during the better part of 2022, food, energy, and housing prices changed at a different pace from the remaining PCE price categories. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a large shock to international energy and food markets, but housing markets are local. So, what happened to those prices?

In short, and paraphrasing Jerome Powell, because rental leases are renewed annually or even less frequently, housing price inflation tends to lag other prices after speedups or slowdowns in overall inflation. This apparent lack of co-movement between the all-items PCE inflation and the other two measures of personal consumption expenditure prices was due to the timing of new housing data, particularly rental prices. This phenomenon has also been visible during other time periods when inflation changed its direction of growth, particularly during the 2007-2009 recession: See this FRED graph with the three PCE series plotted since 1960.

How this graph was created: In FRED, search for and select “Personal Consumption Expenditures: Services Excluding Energy and Housing (Chain-Type Price Index).” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search and select “Personal Consumption Expenditures Excluding Food, Energy, and Housing (Chain-Type Price Index).” Repeat the last step to add “Personal Consumption Expenditures: Chain-type Price Index.” Lastly, use the “Edit Lines” tab to change the units into “Percent Change from Year Ago” and click on the “Copy to all” button to apply the change to the other two series in the graph.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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