There are dozens upon dozens of ways to measure inflation, which at times means that monetary policymakers might be receiving conflicting signals on how much upward or downward pressure on prices there really is.
But after October's Consumer Price Index report, most gauges of prices are all pointing toward the same thing: inflationary pressures that are far more consistent with an economy that's on the verge of a tightening cycle than one slated to enter a deflationary spiral.
Of the gauges of inflation updated on Tuesday morning, only the headline rate of inflation is truly mired in the doldrums:
The story here is simple.
The carnage in the commodities complex is putting a large amount of downward pressure on the headline inflation rate. Other measures of inflation that remove outliers or food and energy prices are considerably higher, thanks to the pace of price increases in medical care services and shelter:
While the collapse in oil prices is still an immense weight on the annual inflation rate, there are also signs of firming headline inflation. Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, observed that inflation gained some serious breadth in October:
"Critically, the internals were very strong, with our diffusion index of 15 categories printing a net +9 and the highest in 18 months," Porcelli noted.
The Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflationary pressures is the Personal Consumption Expenditures index. The core version of this metric, running at an annual rate of 1.3 percent, should converge with the core CPI "very quickly" as increases to subsidized health-care premiums kick in next year, according to Porcelli. Similarly, Goldman Sachs's Alec Phillips believes that medical inflation is poised to pick up in 2016 as policy-induced drags dissipate.
"There is not a lot here to be very happy about if you want the Fed to stay on hold," wrote Michael Ashton, managing principal at Enduring Investments. "The only argument that is stronger now is that they are even further behind the curve."