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Where’s inflation?

If you enjoy searching for Waldo, the visual nemesis in a red-striped sweater and cap, you may appreciate the quandary of central bankers in many wealthy nations. For almost a decade, they’ve been they’ve been trying to find inflation.

Last week, there were reports of a sighting in the United States.

The core U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures changes in the prices Americans pay for goods. The Index rose 0.3 percent from July to August. It was up 2.4 percent year-to-year, reflecting the fastest annual growth rate since July 2018, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Rising healthcare costs were one reason for inflation gains, reported CNBC. In addition, Axios reported:

“The costs of the U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports clearly made an impact on the [inflation] reading, but wages also picked up notably last month as seen in the government's jobs report. The reading may indicate that inflation is making a sustained comeback.”

Central banks don’t want inflation to be too high, as it has been in Argentina (22.4 percent year-to-date). They also don’t want it to be too low, because low inflation can be a sign of economic weakness.

The Federal Reserve (Fed), which is our central bank, considers 2 percent inflation to be consistent with a healthy economy, reported The Wall Street Journal.

If you were reading carefully, you may have noted the CPI was above 2 percent. While the CPI measures inflation, it’s not the Fed’s favorite inflation gauge. Fed officials prefer the Personal Consumption and Expenditures Price Index (PCE), which estimated inflation at 1.4 percent in July. The PCE was up 0.2 percent for the month.

U.S. stocks moved higher again last week on solid retail sales and positive trade news.