The US Federal Reserve is almost certain to hike rates again on Wednesday, with most forecasters calling for a 75 basis point hike.
Several Fed officials commented that the reason for the unusually large rate hike is to dampen inflation, which remains near record highs despite the central bank’s tightening efforts.
But while it’s easy to remember that prices are still rising – a trip to the grocery store will see to that – it’s harder to keep track of all the other indicators that policymakers are watching to gauge where they’re headed the economy develops.
We’ve put together a quick emoji guide to help you visualize which parts of the economy are warming up or cooling down. Our scale ranges from cooking to freezing, and in between: 😡🥵😰🥶
🥵 Total consumer prices
Consumer prices rose 8.3% in August compared to the same period last year. That rate is just below a 40-year high, but slower than the previous two months. Meanwhile, the CPI was flat in July and rose 0.1% in August, mainly due to falling gas prices.
The job market isn’t as strong as it was in the summer, but it’s still hot. In the US, 315,000 jobs were created in August, while US employers posted 200,000 more job vacancies in the same month. Meanwhile, a survey compiled by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows job cuts slowed in August while employers’ hiring plans rose 65%.
Rents have risen more slowly in recent months and even declined by one measure. As home values continue to fall and mortgage rates rise higher, probably more sellers will offer their houses for rent. Unfortunately, it will be a while before these falls show up in the CPI.
😰 Import prices
Falling oil prices combined with a stronger dollar weighed on import prices for the second straight month in August. Food commodity prices also fell for the fifth straight month in September, which should eventually translate into lower prices at grocery stores.
😰 Retail sales
Americans are cutting back on spending. Retail sales fell in July, while August sales rose just 0.3%.
🥶 Activity rate
The unemployment rate rose to 3.7% from 3.5% in August as more people started looking for work. This lowered average wages in the United States because entry-level employees are generally paid less than long-term employees.
That should help with inflation. The more people have jobs, the more goods and services the US can produce, and the cheaper those items become.
Production gauges show that the sector is headed for decline as factory input prices fall.