August 31, 2016 01:45 CDT

Consensus Actual Previous
Month over Month 0.4% 0.3% -0.4%
Year over Year 0.2% 0.2%

Consumer prices provisionally rose a marginally smaller than expected 0.3 percent on the month in August. This left the annual inflation rate unchanged at 0.2 percent, its third consecutive outturn at this mark.

The flash HICP was also 0.3 percent firmer than in July which similarly saw its 12-month rate hold steady at 0.4 percent.

The monthly gain in prices was mainly due to seasonal rises in manufactured goods prices reflecting the end of summer sales and higher service sector charges, largely attributable to the holiday season. Annual inflation actually dipped a tick to minus 0.4 percent in manufacturing and to 0.7 percent in services but declines here were offset by rises in food (1.4 percent after 1.2 percent) and energy (minus 3.1 percent after minus 3.3 percent).

There is nothing here to suggest any significant change in underlying inflation trends which remain dangerously weak against a background of still inadequate growth of domestic demand.

The consumer price index (CPI) is a measure of the average price level of a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers. Monthly and annual changes in the CPI represent the main rates of inflation. The national CPI is released alongside the HICP, Eurostat's harmonized measure of consumer prices. A flash estimate was released for the first time in January 2016 and is now published towards the end of each reference month.

The consumer price index is the most widely followed indicator of inflation. An investor who understands how inflation influences the markets will benefit over those investors that do not understand the impact. In countries where monetary policy decisions rest on the central bank's inflation target, the rate of inflation directly affects all interest rates charged to business and the consumer. As a member of the European Monetary Union, France's interest rates are set by the European Central Bank.

France like other EMU countries has both a national CPI and a harmonized index of consumer prices (HICP). The HICP is calculated to give a comparable inflation measure for the EMU. Components and weights within the national CPI vary from other countries, reflecting national idiosyncrasies.

Inflation is an increase in the overall prices of goods and services. The relationship between inflation and interest rates is the key to understanding how indicators such as the CPI influence the markets - and your investments. As the rate of inflation changes and as expectations on inflation change, the markets adjust interest rates. The effect ripples across stocks, bonds, commodities, and your portfolio, often in a dramatic fashion.

By tracking inflation, whether high or low, rising or falling, investors can anticipate how different types of investments will perform. Over the long run, the bond market will rally (fall) when increases in the CPI are small (large). The equity market rallies with the bond market because low inflation promises low interest rates and is good for profits.