Consumers' Inflation Expectations Fell Again in March, Fed Says

  • The drop brings expectations close to January's record lows
  • Expectations for gasoline prices rise sharply in survey

U.S. consumers’ expectations for inflation declined in March following a rise from record lows the month before, according to Federal Reserve Bank of New York data released Monday.

The numbers, which have been highlighted recently as a potential cause for concern by top officials including Fed Chair Janet Yellen and New York Fed President William Dudley, may add to the debate over downside risks to the U.S. central bank’s 2 percent inflation target. These risks have contributed to policy makers’ cautious approach to tightening monetary policy this year following a decision in December to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade.

The median respondent to the New York Fed’s March Survey of Consumer Expectations expected inflation to be 2.5 percent three years from now, down from 2.6 percent in the February survey. In January, expected inflation three years ahead was 2.45 percent, marking the lowest level in data going back to June 2013.

The New York Fed divides survey respondents into two groups based on a short aptitude test: high-numeracy and low-numeracy. Expected inflation among high-numeracy respondents, which tends to be more stable than that for low-numeracy respondents, declined to a record low in March.

The drop came despite a rise in expected gasoline prices. The median survey respondent in March expected the cost of gas to be 7.3 percent higher a year from now, up from the 4.9 percent expected increase reported in February.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE