Inflation likely remained scorching hot in May

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Biden’s ‘inflationary economy’ is unaffordable for Americans: Sen. Barrasso

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., discusses how Americans are impacted by 40-year-high inflation under the Biden administration. 

Economists are searching for evidence that inflation has peaked and sky-high prices are finally starting to fall, but they are unlikely to find much good news in a key report that will be published on Friday.

The Labor Department is releasing the highly anticipated consumer price index report on Friday morning, providing a fresh look at just how hot inflation ran in May. Economists expect the gauge, which measures a basket of goods including gasoline, health care, groceries and rent, to show that prices surged 8.3% in May from the previous year – unchanged from April, but still near a 40-year high notched in March. On a monthly basis, inflation is projected to have increased 0.7%, well above the 0.5% recorded the previous month.  

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"Inflation is out of control and will be for some time since the sources of inflation are entrenched: too much easy money, a clogged supply chain, and rising wages caused by a labor shortage," said Dan North, senior economist at Allianz Trade North America.

Inflation is rapidly diminishing the buying power of Americans, eroding strong wage gains that workers have seen in recent months. The spike in prices has also become a political liability for President Biden, who has seen his approval rating slump in conjunction with rising costs.

The White House is already in damage control mode ahead of the newest inflation data, with officials publicly bracing for another grim reading after months of publicly downplaying rising costs. 

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"We expect the headline inflation number to be elevated," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One. "And we expect the war in Ukraine to have some effects on core inflation, particularly when you look at things like airfares and the effect of higher jet fuel costs." 

Administration officials are increasingly trying to contain voter outrage over runaway consumer prices by stressing that President Biden is maximizing efforts to bring down inflation ahead of the November midterms, which could be a bloodbath for Democrats. Biden is expected to visit the Port of Los Angeles after the release of the latest data on Friday, during which he's expected to highlight efforts to reduce prices. 

A customer shops for produce at a Cardenas Market on June 08, 2022 in San Rafael, California.  ((Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

The president has blamed higher prices on supply chain bottlenecks and other pandemic-induced disruptions in the economy, as well as the Russian war in Ukraine. Most economists now agree that unprecedented levels of government stimulus, and a stronger-than-expected recovery from the pandemic, have also played at least some role in exacerbating the price spike.

The report will also have major implications for the Federal Reserve, which is tightening policy at the fastest rate in decades as it tries to cool consumer demand and reduce out-of-control inflation. Policymakers raised the benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points last month for the first time in two decades and have all but promised that similarly sized rate hikes are coming in June and July.

May's report could increase the odds of more hawkish moves by the Fed in coming months.

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"The Fed is way, way behind the inflation curve," North said. "The Fed has made a mess for itself since it takes three to five quarters for changes in monetary policy to take effect – they should have started a year ago."

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