InternationalMarkets & Economy

Reports on inflation close to Fed target — what’s it mean for rates?

New data released last week contained some surprises
  • The inflation rate is close enough to the Fed’s 2 percent target to increase unease among hawks. How to justify remaining super-easy with inflation near target?
  • A new study released by the Economic Innovation Group addresses the creepy sense felt by most of us that we live in and among two Americas. One making it in style, the other half not making it.

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Global markets have been calm for a second-straight week. Mortgages are still just above their all-time low, holding down here despite up-ticks in stocks and oil. Remember: markets far more often reflect economic goings-on than cause change. New data last week had a few surprises. Not in housing, still moving slowly ahead. But January personal income and spending each rose 0.5 percent, above forecast and healthy. Orders for durable goods rose in January, still 4.4 percent below one year ago, but manufacturing may have found bottom. Cheap gasoline is finally affecting behavior: In 2015, U.S. miles driven jumped 4.2 percent, at last above 2008. The most significant change -- and new Fed argument ahead -- came in reports on inflation. Last week’s “core” CPI arrived at 2.2 percent year-over-year, the Cleveland Fed “trimmed mean” CPI up to 2.0 percent , and the Fed’s favorite (core personal consumption expenditure deflator) continued a sustained rise, now 1.7 p...