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The CPI–PCEPI Inflation Differential: Causes and Prospects

Carola Binder (), Wesley Janson and Randal Verbrugge ()

Economic Commentary, 2020, vol. 2020, issue 06, 8

Abstract: The Federal Open Market Committee’s inflation target is stated in terms of the personal consumption expenditures price index (PCEPI). The PCEPI, like the consumer price index (CPI), measures inflation in the expenditures of households, but these indexes differ in purpose, scope, and construction. Notably, since the CPI is used as the reference rate for numerous financial contracts, one can derive implied longer-run CPI inflation forecasts from financial contracts. Such forecasts are widely reported. But if policymakers are to use these forecasts to guide their pursuit of the inflation target, they need to translate these CPI inflation forecasts into corresponding implied PCEPI forecasts. Since 1978, CPI inflation has averaged 0.3 percentage points above PCEPI inflation, but this differential has varied significantly over time. In this Commentary, we explain why, investigate a key historical episode, and provide an updated estimate of the likely differential going forward.

Keywords: consumer price index; personal consumption expenditures price index (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.26509/frbc-ec-202006

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