The news of inflation is bad. It will be a while.

While such a draconian action will not be necessary this time, inflation is our biggest economic threat and will remain so for some time. However, there is a glimmer of hope that the price increase has peaked.

The price of gas at the pump, which accounted for more than half of last month’s increase, has declined slightly in recent weeks; Product supply constraints seem to loosen; and investors’ inflation expectations – a key measure of sentiment along the way – have not risen that much.

Yet inflation is the ultimate wallet problem, and Americans tell polls they are concerned about their eroding purchasing power. Yes, wages have risen, but not enough to offset inflation.

It fuels dissatisfaction with President Biden’s handling of the economy as midterm elections approach – although the economy on other fronts, particularly jobs, is strong. In fact, so strong that the Federal Reserve has to raise interest rates faster and probably longer than it planned just a few months ago.

Here’s what the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says about last month:

The consumer price index rose 8.5 percent from a year earlier with painful increases in energy, housing costs and groceries.

Excluding food and energy, which are jumping around a lot, the so-called core inflation was 6.5 percent. A year ago, such a price increase would have been unthinkable.

When comparing prices with February, the CPI rose 1.2 percent last month, mostly since 2005 and almost the same as the gain for the whole of 2020.

A hopeful sign: The pace of core inflation fell from February.

Now you’ve heard all the reasons why prices are on the rise.

First, COVID-19 knotted supply lines, making a variety of goods, from sofas to fences to cars, difficult to obtain.

As we return to more normal routines, the demand for goods and services exceeds supply. For example, air fares rose by 11 percent in March compared to February, as we engage in “revenge travel” after months of staying close to home. And buyers are still bidding on house prices, which have risen 23 percent in the past year based on CPI.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February only made a bad situation worse. Russia supplies about 10 percent of the world’s oil, and fears of disruption have added about $ 25 per barrel. barrel for the price of crude oil since the beginning of the year. Russia and Ukraine together produce a lot of wheat, and the war has led to much higher food costs.

At the same time, China, which has a zero-COVID policy, has closed Shanghai, a major global business center that has experienced an outbreak of infections that could affect the supply chain.

Economists and the Federal Reserve were slow to admit that their inflation forecasts underestimated how high prices would stay and how long gains would remain high.

The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, called core PCE, rose 5.4 percent in February from the year before, more than double the central bank’s long-term target of 2 percent.

Now the Fed must play catch up.

That means raising interest rates to curb demand, which in turn is likely to push unemployment, now at 3.6 percent, higher.

The Fed is expected to raise its benchmark federal funds rate by half a percentage point at the end of its next meeting, on May 4th. The Fed has not raised interest rates by half a point in 20 years.

This increase would come with a quarter-point shot in March. In its latest projections, the Fed said the Fed Funds rate would rise to 2.8 percent by the end of next year. Some economists believe that interest rates must reach as much as 5 percent to bring inflation back to the Fed’s target.

Prices have not been so high since 2007.

The danger is that the Fed will exceed, triggering a recession.

But what about those glimmers of hope, you ask? The average price of regular gas in Massachusetts is $ 4.01 per gallon. gallon, according to AAA. That’s a drop of 35 cents from a month ago.

“It would be reasonable to assume that we are peaking in terms of energy,” said Brian Bethune, an economist at Boston College. New supplies of oil are coming on the market, he said, but “the problem is that it will not be a smooth process.”

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times op-ed columnist, notes that car lots are filling up and freight rates are falling.

“If you think today’s report showed that inflation got out of control, you’re wrong. In fact, we’re probably getting some misleading good news on that front,” Krugman wrote on Tuesday.

Do not start celebrating yet.

There is a big difference between getting past the peak of inflation and getting inflation under control.

The worst may be behind us, but the pain will continue, most likely until next year.


Larry Edelman can be contacted at larry.edelman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd.

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