CNN, CNN BUSINESS
By Christine Romans
It’s too soon to declare victory over inflation, but from gas to chicken to big-screen TVs, there are, increasingly, signs that inflation’s grip on American pocketbooks may be loosening.
Gas prices are back to last year’s levels, after spiking to a record high of just over $5 a gallon this summer. For perspective, a gallon of regular has fallen by almost 50 cents in just a month, making it about $10 cheaper to fill up an average SUV today than a month ago.
Shoppers scored major deals over the Thanksgiving shopping period amid widespread price-cutting. Online inflation fell 1.9% in November, the largest year-over-year drop in 31 months, according to Adobe Analytics.
“Falling prices in categories such as toys and electronics accelerated demand in November,” Adobe reported, noting that computers and electronics saw the biggest year-over-year price cuts since 2014. Toy prices fell 7.7% year over year and sporting goods prices dropped 5.7%.
Retailers awash with excess inventory are expected to keep marking down goods into the end of the year, as consumers shift from buying couches and clothes to spending on travel and experiences — where prices are not coming down for now.
In other areas, price increases are moderating, as global supply chains work themselves out and commodity and shipping costs decline. Skyrocketing rent and automobile prices are still rising, but more slowly. After hitting a record high this summer, chicken prices have dropped sharply. And according to real estate site RealPage, apartment rents have fallen for three consecutive months.
Major inflation gauges, while stubbornly high, have shown signs of peaking. The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the PCE Price Index, rose 6% in October versus a year ago and notched the smallest monthly gain in more than a year. The final Consumer Price Index report of the year comes out on Tuesday, and the Producer Price Index also showed signs of cooling, at 7.4%, down from an 8.1% annual rate in October.
Still, considering the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates six times this year, there is a long way to go and inflation is still issue number one for Americans. In CNN’s most recent poll, the current cost of living represents a near-universal worry, with 93% saying they’re at least somewhat concerned by this, including 63% who say they are very concerned.
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