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U.S.: Inflation expectations mixed

Christian Fernsby |
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the April 2022 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows that inflation expectations fell at the one-year horizon and rose at the three-year horizon.

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Households remained positive about their labor market prospects with earnings growth expectations stable at its series high and job-loss expectations hovering near its series low.

Household spending expectations over the next year also rose to a series high.

However, perceptions of credit access relative to a year ago fell for the fourth consecutive month, and expectations of credit access one year from now also declined to a series low.

Median inflation expectations decreased in April at the one-year horizon to 6.3% from 6.6% in March. In contrast, median three-year-ahead inflation expectations rose by 0.2 percentage point to 3.9%.

While both series remain elevated, they are 0.3 percentage point below their series highs.

The survey’s measure of disagreement across respondents (the difference between the 75th and 25th percentile of inflation expectations) decreased at the one-year horizon but increased at the three-year horizon.

Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—increased slightly to a new series high at the short-term horizon and was unchanged at its series high at the medium-term horizon.

Median home price expectations were unchanged at 6.0%, but remain elevated relative to pre-pandemic levels. Home price expectations rose for respondents who live in the “South” Census region, but fell for respondents who live in the “Northeast” Census region.

Expectations about year-ahead price changes fell sharply by 4.4 percentage points for the price of gas to 5.2%.

The expected change in the price of food and medical care fell by 0.2 percentage point (to 9.4%) and by 0.1 percentage point (to 9.5%), respectively.

The median expected change in the cost of a college education and rent rose by 0.6 percentage point (to 9.1%) and 0.1 percentage point (to 10.3%), respectively. The median expected increase in rent is now at a new series’ high.

Median one-year-ahead expected earnings growth remained unchanged in April at its series high of 3.0%.

Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—increased by 0.1 percentage point to 36.3%, its highest reading since February 2021. The increase was driven by respondents over the age of 40.

The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months decreased by 0.3 percentage point to 10.8%. This matches the series low that was recorded in February 2022 and is well below its 2021 average of 12.5%. The mean probability of leaving one's job voluntarily in the next 12 months decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 19.0%.

The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one’s current job was lost) increased to 57.4% from 55.7% in March. The increase was driven by respondents with annual income below $100,000.

The median expected growth in household income increased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.1% in April. This reading is comparable to its 12-month trailing average of 3.0%, but it is below the series high of 3.4% recorded in December 2021.

Median household nominal spending growth expectations increased by 0.3 percentage point to 8.0%, marking a new series high. The increase was most pronounced for respondents over the age of 60 and those with at most a high school diploma.

Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago deteriorated, with more (fewer) respondents saying it is harder (easier) to obtain credit than one year ago. This marks the fourth consecutive month of deterioration in both measures.

Expectations for future credit availability also deteriorated, with the difference between the fraction of respondents expecting it will be easier to obtain credit in the year ahead and the fraction of respondents expecting it will be harder to obtain credit in the year ahead falling to a series low.

The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months decreased by 0.4 percentage point to 10.7%. This decrease was driven by those with income over $50,000.

The median expectation regarding a year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) increased by 0.2 percentage point to a new series high of 4.7%. The increase was driven by those with an annual household income between $50,000 and $100,000.

Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 10.5%, but remains elevated relative to its pre-pandemic reading of 6.0%.

The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher 12 months from now increased by 0.9 percentage point to 33.6%, the highest reading since March 2019.

Perceptions about households’ current financial situations compared to a year ago improved slightly, but remain close to their series low. Year-ahead expectations about households’ financial situations also improved, with fewer (more) households expecting to be worse (better) off a year from now.

The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now increased by 0.6 percentage point to 37.9%.

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