Inflation, CPI and the PPI

By Staff Reporters

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DEFINITION: In finance, inflation is a general increase in prices of goods and services in an economy. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation corresponds to a reduction in the purchasing power of money.

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DEFINITION: The Producer Price Index PPI is a group of indexes that measure the change, over time, in the prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. It measures price changes from the perspective of the seller rather than the consumer, as with the CPI. The CPI would include imported goods, while the PPI is relevant to U.S. producers, and therefore would not include imports.

CITE: https://www.r2library.com/Resource/Title/0826102549

The PPI measures over 10,000 products and services. It reports the price changes prior to the retail level. This information is useful to the government in formulating fiscal and monetary policies. The data gathered from the PPI is often used in escalating purchase and sales contracts. That is the dollar amount to be paid at some time in the future.

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Inflation stayed elevated in April but eased off its 40-year high, signaling that a stomach-churning surge in consumer prices since last summer may have peaked.

PPI April 2022: https://medicalexecutivepost.com/2022/05/12/what-is-the-producer-price-index/

The consumer price index increased 8.3% annually, down from 8.5% in March, as a drop in gasoline prices offset a continuing run-up in food, rent and other costs, the Labor Department said Wednesday. March’s yearly advance marked the fastest since December 1981.

READ: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/inflation-stays-elevated-at-83percent-in-april-but-eases-from-40-year-high/ar-AAX9vp3?li=BBnb7Kz

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Macro-Economic Mid-Year Update

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Last Week’s Headlines

By Michael Green [TGA Capital Management]

www.tgacapitalmanagement.com

Businesses are paying more for goods and services as the Producer Price Index increased 0.5% in June, the largest increase in a year, according to the Labor Department. Higher energy costs pushed the increase. Since businesses usually pass on increases in the cost of goods and services, it’s likely consumer prices will increase as well, driving inflation upward.

Here is a mid year economic summary:

  • In fact, consumer prices did increase in June–just not at quite the same rate as producer prices. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2%, following the same increase in May and a 0.4% gain in April. Over the last 12 months, the CPI has increased 1.0%. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, consumer prices still increased 0.2% in June and 2.3% from a year earlier.
  • Consumers continue to spend as retail sales increased in June, jumping 0.6% from the previous month and 2.7% ahead of last June. This follows a 0.2% (downwardly revised) increase in May. Excluding autos and gas, household spending climbed 0.7% from May. Output excluding autos remained the same as the prior month. This report, coupled with increases in consumer and producer prices, provides optimism for the economy over the summer months.
  • The manufacturing sector experienced a noticeable uptick in June, as industrial production increased 0.6% after falling 0.3% in May. Manufacturing output rose 0.4%, largely due to an increase in motor vehicle assemblies. June’s gain is the largest monthly increase since November 2014.
  • The number of job openings decreased by 345,000 to 5.5 million on the last business day of May, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. April’s rate was 5.8 million. May’s job openings rate is the lowest of the year. The quits rate was unchanged at 2.0% as workers continue to remain at their present jobs. It’s important to remember that June’s employment situation report showed significant improvement on the labor front.
  • U.S. import prices rose 0.2% in June from May, largely due to a spike in petroleum prices. Exports also increased in June, rising 0.8% following increases of 1.2% in May and 0.4% in April. The 2.4% rise in export prices for the second quarter of 2016 was the largest three-month advance in export prices since the index rose 2.7% between February and May 2011.
  • The Treasury Department reported a $6.3 billion budgetary surplus in June, following May’s $52.5 billion deficit. However, over the first nine months of the fiscal year, the deficit is up almost 27%, at $400.9 billion, over the same period last year ($316.4 billion).
  • Largely influenced by the immediate negative impact of the Brexit vote, the Index of Consumer Sentiment fell from 93.5 in June to 89.5 in July.
  • In the week ended July 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial unemployment insurance claims remained level at 254,000, unchanged from the prior week’s level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained at 1.6%. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ended July 2 was 2,149,000, an increase of 32,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

Conclusion

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Milliman Medical Index [CPI June 2015]

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By Javier Sanabria

The price of medical care boosts Consumer Price Index June 2015

A sharp rise in medical care prices contributed to a recent increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Although economists and healthcare experts have not clearly identified the reasons for the spike, the 2015 Milliman Medical Index (MMI) indicates that prescription drugs are driving medical costs upward.

MMI co-author Chris Girod offers some perspective in this CNBC article.

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The so-called medical care index, maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rose 0.7 percent in April, “its largest increase since January 2007,” the BLS wrote in a report issued Friday. The BLS report comes three days after the large actuarial and consulting firm Milliman projected 6.3 percent growth in the costs of health care for a typical family of four on an employer-based plan in 2015. That compares to a low-water mark growth rate of 5.4 percent last year. Milliman’s report is the latest indication that health-care costs, which saw a historic slowdown in their rate of inflation in the years after the Great Recession of 2008, are headed back up toward the trends seen before the financial meltdown. Before the recession, double-digit inflation in health-care costs was common. “There’s a correlation between the CPI medical index and the MMI, but they’re very different measures,” said Chris Girod, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman, who added that the MMI looks at a broader range of prices. “The annual increases [in the MMI] tend to be a lot higher than CPI.” Milliman’s report blamed resurgent inflation on price increases for prescription drugs, particularly specialty drugs. “The rest of the category, the increases were pretty ho-hum this year,” he said. Prescription drug prices overall are expected to increase by 13.6 percent in 2015, according to Milliman’s index. In the category of specialty drug prices alone, “the annual increases are around 20 percent right now,” Girod said. Those specialty drugs include Sovaldi, made by Gilead, which in a 12-week course of treatment can cost $84,000. “The drug trends have actually been coming down in the last four or five years until now,” Girod said.

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Conclusion

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Understanding the New “Inflation Tax”

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More on the CPI

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPWith all the talk recently, about tax rates and the fiscal cliff, hardly anyone has mentioned what is probably the most effective and least understood tax in the federal arsenal: inflation.

Wait a minute. Isn’t it confusing to call inflation a tax? It is. That confusion is exactly why inflation is the ultimate stealth tax.

The CPI Formula

One of the few deficit-reducing measures that had the support of both parties and President Obama is a change in the way the government measures inflation. Our lawmakers have agreed on another in a series of adjustments to the way they calculate the consumer price index (CPI). The proposed changes will understate the future CPI even more than the current formula already does.

This maneuver is a brilliant way for deficit-reducing lawmakers to both cut spending and increase taxes, without calling their action either a spending cut or a tax increase.

The “Chained” CPI

How is this possible? First, here’s a brief explanation of the proposed change, which is called the chained Consumer Price Index. According to an AP article published in the Rapid City Journal on December 5th, 2012, “the chained CPI assumes that as prices rise, consumers turn to lower-cost alternatives, reducing the amount of inflation they experience.”

The assumption is that, if the price of pork rises while chicken doesn’t, people will buy more chicken. Yet they’re still buying protein. Therefore, presto—no inflation has happened. This argument is like saying if the price of gasoline goes up and the cost of walking doesn’t, people will just walk more, so there’s no problem.

A Spending Cut

The chained CPI is a spending cut because many entitlement programs are indexed to the CPI. These include Social Security, government pensions, veterans benefits, and the interest on some of the national debt. The lower the increase in the CPI; the less benefits will rise.

The AP estimates that once the new CPI is fully phased in, a 65-year old on Social Security will receive $136 a year less. At age 75 the reduction will be $560 annually, and at 85 it will be $984 less.

In addition, as wages increase at the real inflation rate, entitlement programs won’t keep pace. Gradually, fewer people will be eligible for programs like food stamps, Medicaid, heating allowances, and Head Start.

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cpi

A Tax Increase

The chained CPI is a tax increase for much the same reason. Many income tax brackets and deductions are indexed to inflation. Smaller annual adjustments to the brackets because of the lower CPI will push more people into higher tax brackets.

Tweaking the CPI is nothing new. Politicians from both parties have done so for years to give the illusion of a lower CPI than that calculated by previous methods.

ShadowStats.com, run by John Williams, calculates the current unemployment and inflation rates using the formulas from the 1980s. According to that methodology, the unemployment rate (U-6) is 15% and the CPI is 9%. Yet the government has tweaked the CPI so much that today the official CPI is 2.5%. Under this newest proposal, inflation would be 2.2%.

The Results

You may think understating the current CPI by 0.3% isn’t any big deal, but it is. The decrease represents a 12% drop in the inflation rate, which understates the increase in our cost of living. If your employer reduced your wages by 12%, you’d probably see it as a big deal.

Assessment

Proponents figure the newest CPI adjustment will save $200 billion in spending increases and raise $65 billion in new taxes over ten years. It doesn’t matter whether you call it inflation, chained CPI, or plain old gimmickry. A tax increase by any other name is still a tax increase.

Macro-Economics and What the ‘Chained CPI’ Could Mean for Social Security?

Conclusion

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Macro-Economics and What the ‘Chained CPI’ Could Mean for Social Security?

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Definition of Chain-Weighted CPI

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

Dr David E Marcinko MBAAn alternative BLS measurement for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), removing the biases associated with new products, changes in quality and discounted prices.

The chain weighted CPI incorporates the average changes in the quantity of goods purchased, along with standard pricing effects. This allows the chain weighted CPI to reflect situations where customers shift the weight of their purchases from one area of spending to another.

Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/chain-linked-cpi.asp#ixzz2FdiMs25f

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Investopedia Example:

The chain weighted CPI incorporates changes in both the quantities and prices of products. For example, let’s examine clothing purchases between two years. Last year you bought a sweater for $40 and two t-shirts at $35 each. This year, two sweaters were purchased at $35 each and one t-shirt for $45.

Standard CPI calculations would produce an inflation level of 13.64% 

((1 x 35 + 2 x 45)/ (1 x 40 + 2 x 35)) =1.1364

The chain weighted approach estimates inflation to be 4.55%

((2 x 35 + 1 x 45)/ (1 x 40 + 2 x 35)) =1.0455.

Using the chain weighted approach reveals the impact of a customer purchasing more sweaters than t-shirts.

Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/chain-linked-cpi.asp#ixzz2FdiceVyv

BLS Application

  • What is the C-CPI-U and when did the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) begin publishing it?

BLS began publishing the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers effective with the release of July 2002 CPI data. Designated the C-CPI-U, the index supplements the existing indexes already produced by the BLS: the CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

The C-CPI-U employs a formula that reflects the effect of substitution that consumers make across item categories in response to changes in relative prices.

Read more: C-CPI-U data can be found on the BLS web site at http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?su

Substitution Bias

  • What is substitution and substitution bias? And does the C-CPI-U eliminate it?

Traditionally, the CPI was considered an upper bound on a cost-of-living index in that the CPI did not reflect the changes in consumption patterns that consumers make in response to changes in relative prices.

Since January 1999, a geometric mean formula has been used to calculate most basic indexes within the CPI; this formula allows for a modest amount of substitution within item categories as relative price changes.

The geometric mean formula, though, does not account for consumer substitution taking place between CPI item categories. For example, pork and beef are two separate CPI item categories. If the price of pork increases while the price of beef does not, consumers might shift away from pork to beef. The C-CPI-U is designed to account for this type of consumer substitution between CPI item categories. In this example, the C-CPI-U would rise, but not by as much as an index that was based on fixed purchase patterns.

With the geometric mean formula in place to account for consumer substitution within item categories, and the C-CPI-U designed to account for consumer substitution between item categories, any remaining substitution bias would be quite small.

Assessment 

Link: What ‘chained CPI’ could mean for Social Security

White Paper: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/super_paris.pdf

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Understanding the Domestic Unemployment Numbers

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How Can Unemployment Be Going Down?

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

In an economy that isn’t exactly robust, how can unemployment be going down? The recent drop in the unemployment rate from 8.1% to 7.8% caught almost everyone, including me, by surprise. The GDP grew by only 1.5% in the first quarter, and its growth was under 2% for the last 12 years. To get the economy moving again we will need growth of 3% a year.

It isn’t surprising that many pundits were questioning the timing within minutes after the latest unemployment numbers were announced. After all, unemployment is one of the major issues in the Presidential election. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and several Fox News commentators even suggested the administration was cooking the books.

The BLS

I don’t believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics is manipulating unemployment data. The process of computing the data is straightforward and transparent. Two surveys go into projecting the unemployment rate, one covering 400,000 businesses and the other questioning 60,000 households. The surveys ask about the number of full-time and part-time employees, whether the part-time employees really want full-time employment, and whether those without a job have looked for a job within the last month.

Cooked Books?

But that doesn’t mean the books aren’t cooked. They are.

“The way the government derives the unemployment numbers has changed significantly over the last 30 years,” writes John Mauldin, editor of the economic newsletter Thoughts from the Frontline, in the October 8, 2012, issue. “Whatever administration is involved, the new equations for determining unemployment result in a lower unemployment rate than they would have if the 1980’s methodology were still in place.”

The Changes

One of the more bizarre changes in the unemployment rate calculation is that people are not considered unemployed unless they have looked for a job in the last 30 days, even if they currently receive unemployment benefits. Mauldin says there are probably many people who haven’t looked for a job in the last 30 days and that most, if not all, of them would consider themselves unemployed. “If you’re not disabled and you’re receiving unemployment or welfare benefits I think you should be counted as unemployed,” he says. He estimates our actual unemployment rate is well over 12%, which doesn’t take into account the 50% of college graduates who are underemployed.

Don’t Blame Obama

Before you blame the Obama administration for the dumbing down of the unemployment rate, this is the same way the Bush administration calculated unemployment.

It’s the same story with the Consumer Price Index, which the government has continually tweaked to give the illusion of a lower CPI than if the 1980’s formula was used.

ShadowStats.com, run by John Williams, calculates the current unemployment and inflation rates using the formulas from the 1980’s. According to that methodology, Williams calculates the unemployment rate (U-6) is 15% and the CPI is 9%.

Regaining Jobs?

The economy has currently regained about half of the jobs lost in the Great Recession of 2008-2009. According to the Liscio Report, it will take another 40 months to reach the level of employment we had prior to the recession. That is if we don’t have another recession, which is doubtful. If all the tax increases slated for January 1 go into effect, the Congressional Budget Office says GDP will shrink 2.9%, which guarantees a recession.

Assessment

So, what was behind the fall in the unemployment rate this month? According to Mauldin, the entire drop came from an increase in part-time workers. He says, “That such significant numbers of people can only find part-time work is not a sign of a strong and growing economy.”

When we look a little deeper, maybe the latest unemployment numbers aren’t such a surprise after all.

Conclusion

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