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Christopher Condon

Yellen Says Don’t Read Too Much Into Cooling CPI Data

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called October’s positive inflation report in the US “a good reading,” but cautioned against relying too much on one data point.

“Core inflation was a lot lower than had been anticipated, and that’s in spite of the fact that we continue to get high readings on shelter,” Yellen told reporters during a visit to New Delhi.

Government data released Thursday showed inflation was lower than expected last month. The consumer price index rose 7.7% over the past 12 months, and by 6.3% when excluding food and energy.

Markets reacted positively to the news, assuming it might nudge the Federal Reserve toward slowing its pace of rate increases after four successive three-quarter-point hikes. Treasury yields plunged Thursday and stocks gained the most in a day since early 2020.

The Treasury chief has spoken in recent weeks about seeing signs that inflation would begin to slow, but emphasized Friday that some sectors would continue to fuel steep price increases.

In particular, housing costs, which make up about a third of CPI, are expected to add to the pain well into 2023.

“Shelter costs -- both owners’ equivalent rent and market rents -- are going to continue having momentum, adding to inflation on the high side for many months,” she said.

Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, speaks during her visit to Microsoft India Development Center, in Noida, India, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. Yellen is visiting India and expected to discuss trade, investment, climate financing and India's upcoming G20 presidency with Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman. (Bloomberg)

Trade Relationships

The Treasury chief met with reporters just after a set of meetings with India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to discuss deepening economic and financial ties between the world’s two largest democracies. Part of her message focused on her push to shift critical supply chains serving the US away from China.

She noted, however, that the effort wasn’t seeking to simply replace China with another concentrated trade relationship.

“India is a viable alternative” to China, she said, “but it’s not just about the United States and India. It’s about more diversified supply chains that will be more resilient and centered in countries that are our friends.”

Yellen departs India on Saturday to join President Joe Biden for the Group of 20 leaders summit in Bali, Indonesia. Biden is scheduled to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping while at the summit.

A Treasury official said Yellen will meet with Yi Gang, head of China’s central bank, to discuss the global macroeconomic outlook and other topics during the summit. The meeting was reported earlier by Reuters.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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