Consumer Price Index rose 3.4% in April, slightly below previous month

The Consumer Price Index rose 3.4% in April from a year ago — easing from the previous month but still well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target as it looks to tamp down inflation.

The latest monthly figure eased slightly from 3.5% in March to 3.4% in April, in line with economists’ forecasts, according to FactSet. So-called core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, came in at 3.6% on an annual basis as expected — its lowest reading since early last year.

All three stocks indexes surged after the market opened as traders appeared relieved following several months of surprisingly strong inflation readings the first three months of the year.

Grocery shopping in Rosemead, California on April 21, 2022.
Inflation figures from April were in line with analyst forecasts as the price of consumer goods continues to rise. AFP via Getty Images

On a month-to-month basis, inflation rose 0.3% last month — slightly lower than the 0.4% forecast after advancing 0.4% in March and February, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Wednesday.

The annual increase in consumer prices has dropped from a peak of 9.1% in June 2022, though progress has stalled. Inflation accelerated in the first quarter amid strong domestic demand after moderating for much of last year.

Last month’s slowdown was a relief after data on Tuesday showed a jump in producer prices in April.

On Tuesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that he expects inflation to ultimately reach the central bank’s 2% target, but admitted that his confidence in that forecast has weakened after three straight months of elevated price readings.

Inflation is higher now than in June 2023, when it first touched 3%.

The Fed’s policymakers have raised their key interest rate to a 23-year high between 5.25% and 5.50% in an effort to quell rising prices.

12-month percentage change, Consumer Price Index, selected categories
The annual increase in consumer prices has dropped from a peak of 9.1% in June 2022. U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

Powell underscored Tuesday that the Fed will keep its rate at that level for as long as needed to fully conquer inflation, a signal that rate cuts won’t begin as soon as many people had hoped.

Economists say inflation is being driven by providers of services like motor vehicle insurance, housing and healthcare catching up to higher costs.

Whether inflation continues its decline will likely have a significant effect on this year’s presidential race.

Republican critics of President Joe Biden have sought to pin the blame for high prices on the president and to use it to try to derail his re-election bid.

While hiring remains robust and wage growth, on average, healthy, prices remain generally well above where they stood before the pandemic.