Economic Quarterly

2009

 

Summer 2009

Short-Term Headline-Core Inflation Dynamics

Yash P. Mehra and Devin Reilly

This article investigates empirically short-term dynamics between headline and core measures of consumer price index and personal consumption expenditure inflation over three sample periods: 1959:1–1979:1, 1979:2–2001:2, and 1985:1–2007:2. Headline and core inflation measures are co-integrated, suggesting long-run co-movement. However, the ways these two variables adjust to each other in the short run and generate co-movement have changed across these sample periods. In the pre-1979 sample period, when a positive gap opens up with headline inflation rising above core inflation, the gap is eliminated mainly as a result of headline inflation not reverting and core inflation moving toward headline inflation. These dynamics suggest headline inflation would be better than core inflation in assessing the permanent component of inflation. In post-1979 sample periods, however, the positive gap is eliminated as a result of headline inflation reverting more strongly toward core inflation than core inflation moving toward headline inflation, suggesting core inflation would be better than headline inflation in assessing the permanent component of inflation. This change in headline-core inflation dynamics may be due to the Federal Reserve having convinced the public it would no longer accommodate shocks to food and energy prices.

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