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Inflation Comes in Many Flavors

We asked our reporters which items they’re tracking and why.

There’s more to a consumer price index than meets the eye. The US series, for instance, has grown to include 243 item categories over its 101-year history. Datasets for some developing countries, though less rich, still contain some gems. Here’s a compilation of alternative inflation indicators, sourced from our colleagues throughout Bloomberg News, who watch these numbers like their jobs depended on it.

Figures are annual percent change for the most recent month available as of midnight ET, May 17

Red chilis
Red chilis
INDONESIA
+28% The blistering price increase for this key ingredient in sambal, a spicy red paste that’s an omnipresent condiment, was cited as a reason inflation hit a two-year high in March. The overall reading climbed higher in April, with palm oil as the chief culprit. Grace Sihombing
Sausage rolls</br> UK</br> <span class="big">+4.5%</span> I’ve come to see the savory pastry as a leading indicator of the UK’s cost-of-living crisis. <a data-terminal="GRG LN Equity" data-terminal-type="SECURITY" data-terminal-value="GRG LN Equity">Greggs Plc</a>, a giant bakery chain, raised prices for its sausage rolls in December 2020, then again in January 2022 as expenses for labor and ingredients climbed. In March it warned that another increase may be coming, dealing a blow to workers hoping to grab a cheap treat as they file back into the office. A decade ago, Chancellor <a data-terminal="BIO 4149228" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="4149228">George Osborne</a>’s infamous pasty tax stirred a nationwide uproar. Is a sausage roll rebellion next? <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 17315224" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="17315224">David Goodman</a></i>
Sausage rolls
UK
+4.5% I’ve come to see the savory pastry as a leading indicator of the UK’s cost-of-living crisis. Greggs Plc, a giant bakery chain, raised prices for its sausage rolls in December 2020, then again in January 2022 as expenses for labor and ingredients climbed. In March it warned that another increase may be coming, dealing a blow to workers hoping to grab a cheap treat as they file back into the office. A decade ago, Chancellor George Osborne’s infamous pasty tax stirred a nationwide uproar. Is a sausage roll rebellion next? David Goodman
Prepared salad</br> US</br> <span class="big">+9.3%</span> I’ve been tracking the prepared salad component of the CPI since January of last year to gauge the tempo of return to office. The index has been ticking up since June 2021 and jumped more than 1 percentage point in April from the previous month. Living in New York, I’m used to doling out $11 on Sweetgreen or the like, but seeing a bowl approach $15—and that’s sans avocado—may be more than I can stomach. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 19184244" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="19184244">Molly Smith</a></i>
Prepared salad
US
+9.3% I’ve been tracking the prepared salad component of the CPI since January of last year to gauge the tempo of return to office. The index has been ticking up since June 2021 and jumped more than 1 percentage point in April from the previous month. Living in New York, I’m used to doling out $11 on Sweetgreen or the like, but seeing a bowl approach $15—and that’s sans avocado—may be more than I can stomach. Molly Smith
Cellphone service</br> JAPAN</br> <span class="big red">-52.7%</span> Mobile phone carriers cut fees by more than half last year in response to government pressure, which pushed down the overall CPI readings. The impact of those reductions will start dropping out of calculations in April, a key reason, along with soaring energy prices, why some economists see inflation finally hitting the Bank of Japan’s 2% target—a first in seven years. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 15081083" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="15081083">Toru Fujioka</a></i>
Cellphone service
JAPAN
-52.7% Mobile phone carriers cut fees by more than half last year in response to government pressure, which pushed down the overall CPI readings. The impact of those reductions will start dropping out of calculations in April, a key reason, along with soaring energy prices, why some economists see inflation finally hitting the Bank of Japan’s 2% target—a first in seven years. Toru Fujioka
Tomatoes</br> EGYPT</br> <span class="big">+88%</span> The price of this dietary staple has always been volatile—Cairo’s street vendors cry “Tomatoes are crazy” to tempt people to buy quickly before prices climb. The recent surge is especially painful in a nation where about half of the population lives at or below the World Bank’s poverty line. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 20298627" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="20298627">Mirette Magdy</a></i>
Tomatoes
EGYPT
+88% The price of this dietary staple has always been volatile—Cairo’s street vendors cry “Tomatoes are crazy” to tempt people to buy quickly before prices climb. The recent surge is especially painful in a nation where about half of the population lives at or below the World Bank’s poverty line. Mirette Magdy
Household furnishings</br> US</br> <span class="big">+10.6%</span> “Couchmageddon” is what happens when millions of housebound Americans fall out of love with their sofas, order new ones, and then whine about supply chain logjams. Two years into the pandemic, prices for household furnishings show little sign of easing. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 19184244" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="19184244">Molly Smith</a></i>
Household furnishings
US
+10.6% “Couchmageddon” is what happens when millions of housebound Americans fall out of love with their sofas, order new ones, and then whine about supply chain logjams. Two years into the pandemic, prices for household furnishings show little sign of easing. Molly Smith
Pork</br> CHINA</br> <span class="big red">-33.3%</span> Pork is estimated to be the biggest component of the CPI in China, which is both the world’s biggest producer and consumer of the meat. Pork prices have been falling at double-digit rates in each month of 2022, partly because of oversupply. Farmers had been fattening their hogs to almost twice their normal weight in anticipation of a price upswing. Instead, the supersize swine contributed to a rout. <i>—Lin Zhu</i>
Pork
CHINA
-33.3% Pork is estimated to be the biggest component of the CPI in China, which is both the world’s biggest producer and consumer of the meat. Pork prices have been falling at double-digit rates in each month of 2022, partly because of oversupply. Farmers had been fattening their hogs to almost twice their normal weight in anticipation of a price upswing. Instead, the supersize swine contributed to a rout. —Lin Zhu
Women’s clothing</br> US</br> <span class="big">+5.3%</span> Prices for women’s clothing, which has a bigger weighting in the CPI than men’s, plunged early in the pandemic, with lockdowns reducing the need for dressy, on-trend clothes. The category got a bit of a boost from women switching to the work-from-home uniform of yoga pants and comfy tops. Starting in September of last year, the index ticked up for five months straight as Americans who packed on pandemic pounds replaced clothing that no longer fit and updated their wardrobes as part of the return to office. Since hitting its pre-Covid level in February, the CPI component has trended down, a sign that consumer spending is starting to rotate from goods to services. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 17655832" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="17655832">Katia Dmitrieva</a></i>
Women’s clothing
US
+5.3% Prices for women’s clothing, which has a bigger weighting in the CPI than men’s, plunged early in the pandemic, with lockdowns reducing the need for dressy, on-trend clothes. The category got a bit of a boost from women switching to the work-from-home uniform of yoga pants and comfy tops. Starting in September of last year, the index ticked up for five months straight as Americans who packed on pandemic pounds replaced clothing that no longer fit and updated their wardrobes as part of the return to office. Since hitting its pre-Covid level in February, the CPI component has trended down, a sign that consumer spending is starting to rotate from goods to services. Katia Dmitrieva
Kimchi</br> SOUTH KOREA</br> <span class="big">+10.6%</span> The price of the fermented cabbage side dish soared to an all-time high in March, prompting the cabinet of newly elected President <a data-terminal="BIO 22664885" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="22664885">Yoon Suk Yeol</a> to convene a meeting of food distributors and crop traders to explore ways to cool the prices of this and other Korean staples. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 18248913" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="18248913">Sam Kim</a></i>
Kimchi
SOUTH KOREA
+10.6% The price of the fermented cabbage side dish soared to an all-time high in March, prompting the cabinet of newly elected President Yoon Suk Yeol to convene a meeting of food distributors and crop traders to explore ways to cool the prices of this and other Korean staples. Sam Kim
Domestic holiday travel</br> AUSTRALIA</br> <span class="big">+4.5%</span> Australia’s Covid-zero stance early in the pandemic forced may families to cancel vacations. Now, as curbs relax and omicron concerns fade, Aussies are hitting the road. Demand for hotel rooms, space at caravan parks, and domestic flights has been increasing, pushing up the subindex. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 22496650" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="22496650">Swati Pandey</a></i>
Domestic holiday travel
AUSTRALIA
+4.5% Australia’s Covid-zero stance early in the pandemic forced may families to cancel vacations. Now, as curbs relax and omicron concerns fade, Aussies are hitting the road. Demand for hotel rooms, space at caravan parks, and domestic flights has been increasing, pushing up the subindex. Swati Pandey
Frozen chicken</br> SOUTH AFRICA</br> <span class="big">+21.8%</span> The price of a frozen bone-in chicken, one of the most affordable sources of protein in South Africa, has spiked largely because of steep hikes in import tariffs and antidumping levies of as much as 265%. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing up the cost of feed and transport, a group representing importers and exporters warns that consumers are “facing a chicken price tsunami,” and it’s calling on the government to intervene. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 20849944" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="20849944">Prinesha Naidoo</a></i>
Frozen chicken
SOUTH AFRICA
+21.8% The price of a frozen bone-in chicken, one of the most affordable sources of protein in South Africa, has spiked largely because of steep hikes in import tariffs and antidumping levies of as much as 265%. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing up the cost of feed and transport, a group representing importers and exporters warns that consumers are “facing a chicken price tsunami,” and it’s calling on the government to intervene. Prinesha Naidoo
Beer</br> GERMANY</br> <span class="big">+2.9%</span> Christoph Mai, who leads the consumer prices division of Germany’s Federal Statistical Office, said images of breweries pouring beer down the drain during the 2020 lockdowns almost brought tears to his eyes. The beer subindex began lagging other goods and services after last summer and briefly turned negative in March. Now, with biergarten season under way, producers have been warning they’ll need to push through big price hikes (blame Putin). <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 19241434" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="19241434">Carolynn Look</a></i>
Beer
GERMANY
+2.9% Christoph Mai, who leads the consumer prices division of Germany’s Federal Statistical Office, said images of breweries pouring beer down the drain during the 2020 lockdowns almost brought tears to his eyes. The beer subindex began lagging other goods and services after last summer and briefly turned negative in March. Now, with biergarten season under way, producers have been warning they’ll need to push through big price hikes (blame Putin). Carolynn Look
College tuition </br> US</br> <span class="big">+2.1%</span> For most of the past four decades, college tuition and fees have been rising at a much faster pace than the overall CPI, but the pandemic flipped that around. As the parent of two teenagers, this should be a relief, yet I suspect it’s more likely a blip than a trend. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 16563543" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="16563543">Cristina Lindblad</a></i>
College tuition
US
+2.1% For most of the past four decades, college tuition and fees have been rising at a much faster pace than the overall CPI, but the pandemic flipped that around. As the parent of two teenagers, this should be a relief, yet I suspect it’s more likely a blip than a trend. Cristina Lindblad
Laundry soap</br> UGANDA</br> <span class="big">+87.2%</span> My interest in the “furnishings, household equipment, and routine household maintenance” CPI component was piqued after Ugandan Finance Minister <a data-terminal="BIO 19080198" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="19080198">Matia Kasaija</a> in March voiced concern about a spike in prices for laundry bar soap. Behind the jump: a surge in the price of palm oil, stemming from intermittent export bans from Indonesia and the interruption of sunflower oil exports from Ukraine. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 21821393" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="21821393">Monique Vanek</a></i>
Laundry soap
UGANDA
+87.2% My interest in the “furnishings, household equipment, and routine household maintenance” CPI component was piqued after Ugandan Finance Minister Matia Kasaija in March voiced concern about a spike in prices for laundry bar soap. Behind the jump: a surge in the price of palm oil, stemming from intermittent export bans from Indonesia and the interruption of sunflower oil exports from Ukraine. Monique Vanek
Tortillas</br> MEXICO</br> <span class="big">+17.5%</span> The perennial of Mexico’s lunch table and foundation of the street corner taco has surged in the past year on the back of rising corn prices. It’s one of 24 staples covered in an anti-inflation plan Mexico’s government unveiled last month that eschews strict price controls in favor of cooperation with corporations to hold down prices. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 22103586" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="22103586">Maya Averbuch</a></i>
Tortillas
MEXICO
+17.5% The perennial of Mexico’s lunch table and foundation of the street corner taco has surged in the past year on the back of rising corn prices. It’s one of 24 staples covered in an anti-inflation plan Mexico’s government unveiled last month that eschews strict price controls in favor of cooperation with corporations to hold down prices. Maya Averbuch
Diesel</br> BRAZIL</br> <span class="big">+53.6%</span> Brazilian truckers staged paralyzing protests in 2018 in response to fuel price increases. President <a data-terminal="BIO 3198507" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="3198507">Jair Bolsonaro</a>, who is up for reelection in October, has been publicly berating Petrobras, the state-run oil company, accusing it of fattening its profits, in the hopes that this will help cement the loyalty of a key constituency. <i>—<a data-terminal="BIO 18968540" data-terminal-type="PEOPLE" data-terminal-value="18968540">Andrew Rosati</a></i>
Diesel
BRAZIL
+53.6% Brazilian truckers staged paralyzing protests in 2018 in response to fuel price increases. President Jair Bolsonaro, who is up for reelection in October, has been publicly berating Petrobras, the state-run oil company, accusing it of fattening its profits, in the hopes that this will help cement the loyalty of a key constituency. Andrew Rosati

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