US: Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations

Wed Jun 13 09:00:00 CDT 2018

Actual Previous
Bus Infl Exp % Yr/Yr 2.1% 2.0%

Despite tariffs and evaporating labor slack, inflation expectations at the business level remain subdued, up only 1 tenth in June to 2.1 percent. Yet this index, like inflation expectations at the consumer level, is trending marginally higher with this particular reading coming off a 7-year high at 2.3 percent in March. Watch for the FOMC later today and whether Fed policy makers upgrade their assessment of inflation expectations which in prior statements was described as unchanged.

The Atlanta Fed's Business Inflation Expectations survey provides a monthly measure of year-ahead inflation expectations and inflation uncertainty from the perspective of firms. The survey also provides a monthly gauge of firms' current sales, profit margins, and unit cost changes.

The inflation expectations of firms are a critical component of the inflation outlook and provide guidance on the potential path of inflation. If firms expect that prices will increase at a given rate, their purchasing, pricing, and/or wage decisions will reflect this expectation, making the increase more likely to be realized.

Also important is the risk that firms attach to their inflation expectations. The methods the Atlanta Fed uses to compute firms' inflation expectations provide a direct measure of the subjective probabilities that firms assign to various inflation outcomes.

The FOMC judges that inflation at the rate of 2 percent, as measured by the annual change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, is most consistent over the longer run with the Federal Reserve's statutory mandate. Accurately gauging inflation expectations and uncertainties regarding these expectations are a key component of achieving this 2 percent target.

Other measures of inflation expectations are gleaned from consumer opinions, financial market instruments, and select industry groups (such as professional forecasters and purchasing managers), but there are no alternative measures of firms' inflation expectations.

When business expectations for inflation deviate from the FOMC's 2 percent target for inflation over the medium term (higher or lower than target), or when uncertainty about inflation runs higher than normal, it could be an early signal that the Federal Reserve is at risk of missing its price stability mandate. The inflation mandate is balanced against a goal of sustainable long-term employment growth.