Financial Industry Insights from Advisors Asset Management


2% Inflation is Still in Sight

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased from 0.3% to 0.4% in February, pushing the year-on-year rate up from 3.1% to 3.2%. Core CPI remained at 0.4% and pushed the year-on-year figure from 3.7% to 3.8%.

Rising energy prices in February helped inflation accelerate slightly, but the main consideration for the Federal Reserve (Fed) in our view remains the “core services” components, particularly shelter. The good news is we believe shelter will continue to ease (albeit slowly), over the coming months.

Energy rebounds but "core services" continue to dominate

The main driver of inflation overall continued to be the “core services” categories (which includes shelter and “supercore” services), which accounted for 97% of the rise in CPI on a year-on-year basis.

Energy prices rose 2.3% month-on-month, contributing 0.15% to the monthly rise in CPI, with gasoline prices the main driver.

Figure 1: "Core services" sectors dominated year-on-year inflation

"Core services" sectors dominated year-on-year inflationSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Macrobond, Insight Investment, March 2024

“Supercore” services remained relatively high, supported, in particular, by an acceleration in transportation services, which remains the last “red hot” category in Figure 2.

Encouragingly, the “shelter” component moderated on a year-over-year basis, reaching the lowest level since July 2022.

Figure 2: Shelter moderated while transportation services accelerated

Shelter moderated while transportation services acceleratedSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Macrobond, Insight Investment, March 2024

We still expect shelter inflation to continue to ease

Last month, the “owners’ equivalent rent” component of shelter inflation was particularly strong, prompting The Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide additional context. It indicated the print was the result of a change in methodology, given a re-weighting toward single-family homes within the underlying surveys, essentially reflecting a statistical artifact rather than a new trend. This analysis is supported by the March 12 print, with owners’ equivalent rent moderating to 0.4% month-on-month from 0.6% last month.

Shelter, nonetheless, remained a concern for the Fed because it tends to be the “stickiest” component of the CPI. Rental prices move slowly, partly because they typically get locked in for a year. Further, shelter CPI is based on surveys the Bureau of Labor Statistics only refreshes every six months. Finally shelter CPI tracks all tenants, rather than just new tenants, and so tends to be less volatile than private rental indices maintained by agents like Zillow or Apartment List.

The good news is that shelter CPI is relatively predictable over the medium term. Studies and historical pricing show that, due to its methodology, shelter CPI tends to directionally lag private rental indices by up to a year. At present, it appears shelter CPI will likely continue moderating in the coming months (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Leading indicators indicate shelter inflation could continue falling

Leading indicators indicate shelter inflation could continue fallingSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Zillow, Apartment List, March 2024

The Fed's preferred inflation measure is less dominated by shelter

The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) has been running significantly closer to the Fed’s 2% target than CPI, particularly on a three-month and six-month annualized basis (Figure 4).

Figure 4: PCE inflation has been trending closer to 2% than CPI

PCE inflation has been trending closer to 2% than CPISource: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Insight calculations, March 2024

The major culprit behind this divergence is shelter, which makes up more than a 30% weight in the CPI, but only ~15% of PCE. As such, even if shelter holds back the CPI, we expect faster progress on PCE, which is particularly important for the Fed. Indeed, when stripping shelter out of the CPI, the index is running at 1.8% year-on-year, below the 2% target.

Ultimately, we believe inflation is still moving in the right direction, and we expect to see it edge closer to the Fed’s target, keeping rate cuts firmly in the conversation for later in the year, which we continue to believe makes for an attractive environment for fixed income investors.


CRN: 2024-0314-11535 R

The opinions of this piece are those of Insight Investment and are not necessarily those of AAM.

This commentary is for informational purposes only. All investments are subject to risk and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please see the Disclosures webpage for additional risk information at commentary-disclosures. For additional commentary or financial resources, please visit


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