The run-up in consumer prices cooled slightly in August, a sign that although inflation is higher than normal, the White House and Federal Reserve may be beginning to see the slowdown in price gains they have been hoping for.
Policymakers have consistently argued that this year’s burst of inflation has been tied to pandemic-related quirks and should prove temporary, and most economists agree that prices will climb more slowly as businesses adjust and supply chains return to normal. The major question hanging over the economy’s future has been how much and how quickly the inflationary burst will fade.
The Consumer Price Index rose 5.3 percent in August, from the prior year, data released by the Labor Department on Tuesday showed. That’s a slightly slower annual pace than the 5.4 percent increase in July. On a monthly basis, price gains moderated to a 0.3 percent increase between July and August, down from 0.5 percent the prior month and a bigger slowdown than economists in a Bloomberg survey had expected.
The news on core inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel prices to try to get a cleaner read of underlying price trends, was even more encouraging for policymakers hoping to see signs of fading pressures. That index picked up by 0.1 percent on the month, and 4 percent over the past year — down from 0.3 percent and 4.3 percent in the July report.
Inflation has been running hot this year as the economy reopens from the pandemic, causing airline fares and hotel room rates to bounce back from depressed levels. At the same time, supply chain snarls have pushed shipping costs higher, feeding into prices for all sorts of products, from lumber to toys. Labor costs have climbed for some companies, pushing inflation higher around the edges, and rent prices are rising again as workers return to cities after fleeing during 2020.
But policymakers are betting that annual price gains will settle down toward the Fed’s 2 percent average target over time. Officials define their target using a different index than what was released on Tuesday, a measure known as the Personal Consumption Expenditures index. That gauge has also picked up this year, but by less, climbing by 4.2 percent in the year through July.
“The rapid reopening of the economy has brought a sharp run-up in inflation,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, acknowledged in a speech last month. But “the baseline outlook is for continued progress toward maximum employment, with inflation returning to levels consistent with our goal of inflation averaging 2 percent over time.”
Central bankers are hoping that quick inflation will dissipate before consumers learn to expect steadily higher prices — which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as shoppers accept loftier price tags and workers demand higher pay. A closely watched tracker of household inflation outlooks released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Monday showed that expectations rocketed up to 5.2 percent in the short term and 4 percent in the medium term.
That data point is disquieting, but market-based inflation expectations have been relatively stable after moving up earlier this year, and real-world prices may begin to ease in important categories in the months ahead.
Price indexes for airline fares, used cars, and car insurance all declined in August, the Labor Department report showed.
Job vacancies in Britain climbed to a record in August, rising above one million for the first time, as the labor market continued its uneven recovery, according to data released Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics.
As Britain emerged from lockdowns, the demand for workers has soared. Every sector is seeking more workers, with restaurants, bars, hotels and other accommodation and food businesses trying to hire the most over the summer.
It has helped push the unemployment rate down, to 4.6 percent, and has shrunk the number of people who are out of the work force.
Nearly a quarter of a million people were added to company payrolls in August, returning this part of the labor market (which doesn’t include the self-employed) to its prepandemic size, the statistics office said. But not every region had fully recovered. The number of employees was still down in London, in southeast England and in Scotland. And some of the workers on payroll were still receiving wage subsidies from the government’s furlough program.
The soaring vacancy rate has highlighted mismatches in the labor market. Even as people return to work, lots of businesses report they are struggling to hire. The staff they are looking for have either moved into different industries or left the country. And job seekers don’t have the right training or experience. Growth in the manufacturing sector has been hampered by the challenge of filling open positions. And businesses across Britain are running low on supplies because there are too few truck drivers.
Analysts predict that some of the gains in the labor market will be reversed when the furlough program ends this month, and employers can no longer rely on the government to top up staff wages up to 80 percent for the hours they don’t work. At the end of July, there were 484,000 employers with 1.6 million workers still on furlough. Layoffs are expected; a group representing the travel sector said more than two-thirds of businesses with staff on furlough expect to cut jobs when the program ends.
“With the furlough scheme ending in little over two weeks’ time, we should expect a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn, particularly among furloughed staff that aren’t able to return to their previous jobs,” Nye Cominetti, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, a think tank studying living standards, wrote in a note.
Samuel Tombs, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the end of the furlough program would increase unemployment and underemployment, as people can’t find as much work as they would like, despite the high number of vacancies.
“About 60 percent of staff on furlough are attached to small businesses employing fewer than 20 people, who are unlikely to have the financial strength to re-employ them for all their pre-Covid hours,” he wrote in a note to clients. Businesses with high vacancies are different from the ones using the furlough program, so people will need to retrain before they return to employment, he added, predicting that the unemployment rate would to rise to 5 percent later this year.
It’s that time of the year again, when Apple unveils its latest gadgets ahead of the holiday season.
On Tuesday, the iPhone maker will hold its annual product event — virtually, because of the coronavirus pandemic — and present its newest lineup. The new products — including iPhones and Apple Watch — will have a strong focus on screens, in an era when people are increasingly glued to them.
The company plans to broadcast a video presentation starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time to show new iPhones with improved displays and Apple Watches with slightly larger screens, according to people briefed on the event, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the products. Apple declined to comment.
The aesthetic of the new iPhones will closely resemble that of last year’s models, the people said. The biggest change will be to the screen, which will have what is known as a higher “refresh rate” that will make videos and motion look smoother. The camera will also be improved, the people said.
The new Apple Watch will also look similar to last year’s models but will include slightly larger displays that can show more pixels, the people briefed on the products said. That will make images and text shown on the watch face look more compelling.
Gary Gensler, the Securities and Exchange Commission chair, will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, after five months on the job. Based on his prepared remarks, he’ll make the case for additional resources to achieve a more expansive agenda than many of his predecessors at the commission.
Since his confirmation, Mr. Gensler’s public statements have generated much debate, many headlines and more than a few market movements, the DealBook newsletter reports. Here’s what to expect on Tuesday on some hot-button issues:
Mr. Gensler wants to “freshen up” the rules. To promote efficiency and competition, he’s considering structural issues, like whether there is too much concentration among market makers, and conflicts of interest, like those arising from payment for order flow. Speeding up transaction settlements, which now take about two business days, is also a goal he notes in his remarks, and one that Republican senators want him to pursue, a committee aide said.
When it comes to cryptocurrencies, buyers beware. Mr. Gensler will say that the new digital currency markets resemble a time before securities laws: He wants more investor protection in crypto finance, issuance, trading and lending.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has been outspoken about regulatory gaps in the crypto industry, will follow up on those concerns, an aide said. Senator Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, will also press Mr. Gensler for regulation, but with an emphasis that reflects her support of the crypto industry. “We must have a balanced legal framework for digital assets that enables innovation and protects consumers,” she told DealBook in a statement.
More required disclosures on climate risk, human capital and cybersecurity are in the works. Perhaps sensing the resistance he’ll face on this issue, Mr. Gensler will note that “these proposals will be informed by economic analysis and will be put out to public comment, so that we can have robust public discussion,” according to his prepared remarks. Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania and the ranking committee member, has pushed back on added disclosures on environmental, social and governance issues before, and he’ll likely renew these criticisms at the hearing.
Other priorities include greater transparency on SPACs, China and insider info. The surge in special purpose acquisition companies that allow businesses to go public with fewer rules than traditional initial public offereings is cause for concern, Mr. Gensler will say, because of conflicts of interest that he believes are “inherent” in the structures.
He also wants the risks of Chinese companies that list on U.S. exchanges to be made more apparent. And he will discuss efforts to “modernize” a rule known as 10b5-1 on executive stock sales, which helps insulate insiders from accusations of trading on nonpublic information.
At the hearing, Mr. Gensler will get guidance from senators on what they think his priorities should be. How far he can advance his plans could depend, in part, on whether lawmakers give him more authority and resources.
Like Mr. Gensler, Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio and the committee chairman, is keen on added transparency and stricter investor protections. According to his prepared remarks, Mr. Brown will open the hearing by saying that “the disconnect between the stock market and most Americans’ lives has never been more painfully clear,” and that, whatever the economic circumstances, “the hedge funds, the SPAC sponsors, the big banks, the brokers — the big guys seem to do just fine.”
Apple issued emergency software updates on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.
Apple has urged customers to run the latest software updates for the fixes to take effect, by installing iOS 14.8, MacOS 11.6 and WatchOS 7.6.2.
Apple issued a software update on Monday to fix a critical flaw in its products that had allowed governments to invisibly spy on Apple users without so much as a click.
Here’s how to update your iPhone with the software patch →
“This spyware can do everything an iPhone user can do on their device and more.” READ MORE →