The Turn of a Card

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. -- The February

consumer price indices

were

released on Friday.

The overall index.

Troughed in spring 1998. Was rising at a 1.4% year-on-year rate then; is rising at a 3.2% rate now (see our data

page for a chart). Accelerated half a percentage point between January and February.

The services index.

Troughed in June 1999. Was rising at a 2.4% year-on-year rate then; is rising at a 2.8% rate now. Accelerated a tenth between January and February.

The services less energy index.

Troughed last autumn. Was rising at a 2.5% year-on-year rate then; is rising at a 2.8% rate now. Showed neither acceleration nor deceleration between January and February.

The core (excluding food and energy) index.

Yet to put in a definitive trough. Year-on-year increase first hit 1.9% (a rate not seen since 1966) in August 1999; rising at a 2.1% rate now. Accelerated two tenths between January and February.

The all items less energy index.

Yet to put in a definitive trough. Year-on-year increase first hit 1.9% in August 1999; rising at a 2.1% rate now. Accelerated two tenths between January and February.

The overall CPI is accelerating notably. Two of the other four key indices have yet to trough; the two that have are accelerating only gradually.

The published price statistics say that the story here is largely one of energy.

That your experience?

It matters not.

Learn it. Know it. Live it.

A Throw of the Dice

The February

retail sales

report was

released last Tuesday.

The

personal consumption expenditure

series posted a 7.7% year-on-year increase during the fourth quarter of last year. (Note that the retail sales series captures less than half of the spending that goes on in any given month; it does

include Internet sales, but, unlike the PCE series, it does not include spending for services.) We ain't seen a spending number that large since 1989, and the fresh retail report suggests we'll see an even bigger one when the first-quarter figure is released about a month from now.

Eating and spending are the two things at which Americans excel.

They're getting better and better at both.

Side Dish

Hey hey.

All you pac-10 fans?

Especially the ones who are always claiming that your teams are actually very good and complaining that they don't get the respect they deserve owing only to some kind of anti-West Coast bias?

I thank you from the bottom of my bagel that your conference truly sucks.

Tomorrow?

Half-point.

Quarter-point and tough talk.

Quarter-point and sissy statement.

Who will win it all?

Duke.

Tulsa.

Miami.

Iowa State.

Nobody here.