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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Inflation slows slightly, mortgage applications up

Inflation slowed in April after seven months of relentless gains, a tentative sign that price increases may be peaking while still imposing a financial strain on American households.

Though it wasn't much, markets responded positively.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.3% month-over-month (m/m) in April, above the Bloomberg consensus estimate calling for a 0.2% gain, and compared to March's unrevised 1.2% increase. The core rate, which strips out food and energy, increased 0.6% m/m, topping forecasts of a 0.4% rise and compared to March's unadjusted 0.3% increase. 

Compared to last year, prices were 8.3% higher for the headline rate, above estimates of an 8.1% increase but a deceleration from the prior month's unrevised 8.5% rise. The core rate was up 6.2% y/y, north of projections of a 6.0% gain, and down from March's unrevised 6.5% rise.  

Nationally, the price of a gallon of regular gas has reached a record $4.40, according to AAA, though that figure isn’t adjusted for inflation. The high price of oil is the main factor. A barrel of U.S. benchmark crude sold for around $104 early Wednesday morning. Gas had fallen to about $4.10 a gallon in April, after reaching $4.32 in March.

Beyond the financial strain for households, inflation is posing a serious political problem for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats in the midterm election season, with Republicans arguing that Biden’s $1.9 trillion financial support package last March overheated the economy by flooding it with stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment aid and child tax credit payments.

In other news, the MBA Mortgage Application Index rose 2.0% last week, following the prior week's increase of 2.5%. The second-straight weekly increase came as a 2.0% drop in the Refinance Index was more than offset by 4.5% gain in the Purchase Index. The average 30-year mortgage rate resumed its jump, rising 17 basis points (bps) to 5.53%, up 242 bps versus a year ago.

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