The government's latest measure of inflation at the wholesale level saw a significant jump in January.
While the Labor Department has yet to report on the latest inflation number at the consumer level, Adobe's Digital Price Index (DPI) suggests consumers are paying more for things than they were last year, at least when they shop online.
The DPI tracks $7.50 out every $10 spent online with the top 500 U.S. retailers. In the last two months it started tracking prices for five new categories -- alcoholic beverages, auto parts, tools and home improvement products, personal care products, and pet products.
In January, Adobe reports finding higher than expected inflation in consumer goods. Despite holiday sales, December prices were up significantly over December 2015 data.
Trend continues in January
Adobe reports the trend continued into January, with prices increasing 0.05%, which resulted in a 1.2% cumulative inflation rate over just the last three months.
Again, despite intense competition among retailers for holiday dollars, Adobe found that TVs cost 7.8% more than they did a year ago, the cost of appliances was up 6%, and tablets were up 5.4% from a year ago.
So what are we to make of these numbers?
“The inflation we’re seeing is really interesting because the American economy has been struggling with deflation in the last few years, especially in durable goods like computers and appliances," said Luiz Maykot, data science analyst for the Adobe DPI. "But here we’re seeing people out buying TVs and computers, spending their disposable income, and that’s generally a good sign for the economy."
Didn't slow consumer spending that much
Rising prices are never good for the consumers, but Maykot points out that it means businesses are able to raise their prices a bit, which will help keep them in business. And the extent of the price rise didn't seem to bother consumers, who kept spending.
"It’s too soon to tell if this will continue, but it’s an important trend to watch,” Maykot said.
In the new category of alcoholic beverages, Adobe says beer prices rose the most year over year. But it says online wine sales were very strong, suggesting that could become a growing opportunity for online retailers.
Inflation has been largely non-existent since the financial crisis, which is the reason the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near zero. But after a small hike in December, Fed Chair Janet Yellen, testifying before Congress this week, said there are signs that the economy is beginning to grow faster, suggesting another rate hike next month could be in the cards.
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