US inflation hit a new 40-year high last month of 8.6%

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The prices of petrol, food and most other goods and services in the US jumped in May, raising US inflation to a new four-decade high and giving American households no respite from rising costs.

Consumer prices surged 8.6% last month from 12 months earlier, faster than April’s year-over-year increase of 8.3%, the Labour Department said on Friday.

The new inflation figure, the biggest yearly increase since December 1981, will heighten pressure on the US Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates aggressively.

On a month-to-month basis, prices jumped 1% from April to May, much faster than the 0.3% increase from March to April.

Behind that surge were much higher prices for food, energy, rent, airline tickets and new and used cars.

The widespread price increases also elevated so-called “core” inflation, a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices.

In May, core prices jumped a sharp 0.6% for a second straight month and are now 6% above where they were a year ago.

Friday’s report underscored the worry that inflation is broadening well beyond the spike in energy prices stemming from clogged supply chains and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the increased pressure on the Fed to raises rates even faster – which will mean higher-cost loans for consumers and businesses – raises the risk of recession.

“Virtually every sector has higher-than-normal inflation,” said Ethan Harris, head of global economic research at Bank of America.

“It’s made its way into every nook and cranny of the economy. That’s the thing that makes it concerning, because it means it’s likely to persist.”

The national average price at the pump reached 4.99 US dollars on Friday, according to AAA.

The cost of groceries surged nearly 12% last month from a year earlier, the biggest such increase since 1979. Restaurant prices jumped 7.4% in the past year, the largest 12-month gain since November 1981, reflecting higher costs for food and workers.

Housing costs are also climbing. The government’s shelter index, which includes rents, hotel rates and a measure of what it costs to own a home, increased 5.5% in the past year, the most since 1991. Airline fares have skyrocketed nearly 38% in the past year, the sharpest such rise since 1980.

Some evidence in recent weeks had suggested that inflation might be moderating, particularly for long-lasting goods that were caught up in supply chain snarls and shortages last year.

But that trend appeared to reverse itself in May, with used car prices rising 1.8% after having dropped for three straight months. New car prices also rose. And clothing prices increased after having declined in April.

In light of Friday’s inflation reading, the Fed is all but certain to carry out the fastest series of interest rate hikes in three decades.

By sharply raising borrowing costs, the Fed hopes to cool spending and growth enough to curb inflation without tipping the economy into a recession. For the central bank, it will be a difficult balancing act.

The Fed has signalled that it will raise its key short-term rate by a half-point — double the size of the usual hike — next week and again in July.

Some investors had hoped the Fed would then dial back its rate increases to a quarter-point increase when it meets in September or perhaps even pause its credit tightening.

But with inflation raging hot, investors now increasingly expect yet another half-point hike in September, which would be its fourth since April.

A report from the World Bank this week made clear that high inflation is a global problem that threatens to slow economies around the world.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has hit hard in Europe, where utility bills, business costs and gasoline prices have surged because of its dependence on Russian oil and natural gas.

For the 19 countries that use the euro currency, inflation fuelled by rising food and fuel prices hit a record 8.1% last month, leading the European Central Bank to announce on Thursday that it will raise interest rates for the first time in 11 years, starting in July and again in September.

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