Know the “Big Six” Inflation Indicators

Inflation is a key dynamic for investors to consider. Appreciating the nuances of inflation and where inflation is heading can help you navigate risk and enhance returns.

The first step is understanding how inflation is measured.

A variety of statistics and economic indicators help investors track and understand inflation. Familiarity with these statistics is essential to making informed investment decisions. Each indicator offers important insights into price levels and trends.

“Big 6” Inflation Indicators

Below is an investor “cheat sheet” for the six leading inflation indicators.

1. Consumer Price Index

Measures the overall change in prices for a representative basket of goods and services, including food and energy. Most widely used inflation index. Also known as “headline” CPI, this is the number you will hear quoted in business news each month on the morning it is released. CPI readings have been known to move financial markets. Based on 80,000 prices collected monthly.

Bureau of labor statistics

2. Core Consumer Price Index, excluding Food and Energy

Excludes the volatile food and energy components of the CPI to provide a more stable inflation measure.

Bureau of labor statistics

3. Urban Consumer CPI

Version of CPI selected by the US Treasury to calculate the inflation adjustment for TIPS: “non-seasonally adjusted U.S. City Average All Items Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.”

Bureau of labor statistics

4. Producer Price Index

Measures changes in wholesale prices, reflecting cost pressures for manufacturers and producers.

Bureau of labor statistics

5. Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index

Measures spending on goods and services in the U.S. The PCE captures changes in prices as well as consumer behavior. A preferred inflation measure for the Federal Reserve.

Bureau of economic analysis

6. Gross Domestic Product Price Deflator

Measures the average change in the prices of all goods and services produced in the U.S. Includes exports but not imports. Used by some firms to adjust contract payments.

Bureau of economic analysis


So Which Indicators Matter?

Each of the six key inflation indicators provides insights into various aspects of the economy. Here’s how they can help investors make informed decisions:

1. Consumer Price Index

Investors use the headline CPI to gauge overall inflation in the economy. A rapidly rising CPI might indicate economic overheating, which could influence central bank policy decisions, such as raising interest rates. Such changes can directly affect sectors like finance or real estate.

2. Core Consumer Price Index, excluding Food and Energy

Core CPI provides a more stable measure of inflation by eliminating the noise of volatile components. It helps investors get a clearer picture of the underlying inflation trend. A persistently rising core CPI can signal sustained inflationary pressures that might not be immediately evident from the headline number.

3. Urban Consumer CPI

CPI-U gives a more focused look into the consumption patterns of urban populations. Urban consumers often have different consumption patterns than rural consumers, so investors who are interested in sectors heavily influenced by urban spending might pay special attention to CPI-U.

In addition, the U.S. Treasury uses CPI-U for the inflation adjustments to TIPS securities. Fixed income investors track CPI-U to better understand the dynamics in the Treasury and TIPS markets.

4. Producer Price Index

PPI is a leading indicator of cost pressures. If producers are facing rising costs, they might pass these on to consumers, leading to CPI increases down the road. Investors might use PPI to anticipate future inflationary pressures.

5. Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index

PCE is preferred by some economists and the Federal Reserve as a measure of inflation. It encompasses a broader range of expenses and adjusts more dynamically to changes in consumer behavior. PCE also offers longer-term consistency in its calculation methodology and thus facilitates historical comparisons more readily than other inflation measures. High PCE growth can suggest strong consumer demand, which might be good for consumer-driven businesses.

6. GDP Deflator

The GDP deflator gives an overview of inflation across the entire economy, including investment goods, government spending and exports, rather than just consumer goods. A rising GDP deflator can signal broad inflationary pressures and might affect investment decisions across various sectors, not just consumer-driven ones.

Seeking Better Performance

The “Big Six” inflation indicators provide various lenses to assess inflationary pressures in the economy and financial markets. Investors use this information to anticipate policy changes, evaluate sector prospects, and adjust portfolios in anticipation of future economic conditions. Understanding inflation can make for better portfolio performance.

How to Hedge Inflation

Investors have rediscovered inflation-sensitive investments as a key allocation for their portfolios. Want to learn more about hedging against and benefiting from inflation?

DRAFT - 28261 AXS Inflation Toolkit CTA 620x185 v2

This information is educational in nature and does not constitute investment advice. These views are subject to change at any time based on market and other conditions and no forecasts can be guaranteed. These views may not be relied upon as investment advice or as an indication of any investment or trading intent. This content should not be construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any security by AXS Investments or any third-party. All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.

Distributed by ALPS Distributors, Inc, which is not affiliated with AXS Investments. AXI000340

© 2023, AXS Investments

John Davi

Author: John Davi

Portfolio Manager, AXS Astoria Inflation Sensitive ETF (PPI) Mr. Davi is the CEO, CIO and Founder of Astoria Portfolio Advisors, a leading investment management firm and ETF Strategist, specializing in research driven, multi-asset ETF and thematic equity portfolio construction. He is an award-winning research strategist and has over 20 years of experience as an ETF industry leader and innovator.


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