In a recent post, we introduced the Multivariate Core Trend (MCT), a measure of inflation persistence in the core sectors of the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index. With data up to February 2022, we used the MCT to interpret the nature of post-pandemic price spikes, arguing that inflation dynamics were dominated by a persistent component largely common across sectors, which we estimated at around 5 percent. Indeed, over the year, inflation proved to be persistent and broad based, and core PCE inflation is likely to end 2022 near 5 percent. So, what is the MCT telling us today? In this post, we extend our analysis to data through November 2022 and detect signs of a decline in the persistent component of inflation in recent data. We then dissect the layers of inflation persistence to fully understand that decline.
The return of U.S. real GDP to its pre-pandemic level in the second quarter of this year was driven by consumer spending on goods. Such spending was well above its pre-pandemic path, while spending on services was well below. Despite the surge in goods spending, domestic manufacturing has increased only modestly, leaving most of the increase in demand being filled by imports. While higher imports have been a drag on growth, the size of this drag has been moderated by the value created by the domestic transportation, wholesale, and retail sectors in selling these goods. Going forward, a rebalancing of consumer spending toward services could give a lift to growth, by shifting demand toward purchases with little import content.