Beneath October’s Consumer Price Index Number Lurk Inflation’s Untold Tales


Consumer prices this past week fell more than expected. October inflation was 3.2%—essentially flat. Lower gasoline prices helped, and higher shelter costs hurt. But digging deeper into the report provides some interesting—even strange—details.

Start with food prices, which rose 0.3% in October. Certain food items stuck out. The price of uncooked beef roasts increased 4.1% from September, while pork chops rose 3.5%. According to Department of Agriculture reports, cattle and hog inventories have been declining recently. Meanwhile, prices for apples dropped a whopping 7.9%.

Food wasn’t the only funky result. Prices of laundry equipment slid 5%, while photographic equipment and supplies grew 6.8%. Women’s outerwear fell 5.9%. But wrapping the coat will cost more, as stationery, stationery supplies, and gift-wrap prices rose 3.5%. And tickets for sporting events jumped 3.6%. “These are things that could be affected by seasonal factors,” says Raymond James’ chief economist Eugenio Aleman, noting that the National Hockey League began its regular season on Oct. 10, and the National Basketball Association, on Oct. 24.

Most items aren’t heavily weighted in the total report, says Aleman. “There are some that are so small in the overall CPI that basically it’s probably not affecting much of the direction of overall core CPI,” he says. Still, when it comes to inflation perception, as opposed to reality, consumers may differ with the economists.

Write to Angela Palumbo at angela.palumbo@dowjones.com

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Last Week

Markets

The House and Senate passed a bill to temporarily fund the government into the new year. Left out: aid to Israel and Ukraine. The October consumer price index came in lower than expected, at 3.2% for the year (essentially flat for October), sending Treasury yields down and stocks up. Jobless claims rose. It was a big week: the


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 1.94%, the


S&P 500

gained 2.24%, and the


Nasdaq Composite

rose 2.37%.

Companies

President Biden and China President Xi Jinping met in San Francisco and discussed a range of issues.

Boeing

won a $52 billion order from the Emirates for its 777X Widebody planes, and China weighed lifting its buying freeze on 737 MAX planes. The $771 billion Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board voted to exclude Chinese and Hong Kong stocks.

Berkshire Hathaway

disclosed selling off stakes in

General Motors

and

Johnson & Johnson
.

Microsoft

introduced two new AI chips. The OpenAI board pushed out co-founder and CEO Sam Altman over a lack of candor in his communications.

Deals

Johnson Associates says Wall Street deal bonuses in January could be down an average of 25%…Canadian miner

Teck Resources

agreed to sell 77% of its coal assets to Swiss-based

Glencore



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