Headline inflation fell 50 basis points (bps) to 3.2% year over year in October, according to CPI data released this morning. Inflation had cooled for twelve consecutive months before ticking up in July and August of this year.
This decrease in annual inflation was driven largely by energy prices, which fell 2.5% from September and 4.5% from the prior year. Gasoline prices, more specifically, were down 5.0% from September and 5.3% from October of 2022.
The good news:
Core inflation, furthermore—which excludes the more volatile elements of foods and energy—cooled for the seventh consecutive month to 4.0% year over year, and we expect that this figure will come down further as shelter inflation (40% of core CPI) continues to moderate.
U.S. asking rents—what residents pay to sign a new lease—have been moderating for over a year now, but there is a significant lag between changes in these market rents and what is captured by CPI (what residents are currently paying).
- The growth of asking rents for multifamily properties peaked at 10.6% year over year in 1Q 2022, according to data from CoStar, and then moderated for five consecutive quarters, reaching just 1.3% annual growth in the second quarter of this year.
- Annual shelter inflation, on the other hand, didn’t peak until March of this year at 8.2% before cooling to 6.7% in October.
When we exclude this cost of shelter, core CPI was up just 2.0% from the previous October, exactly in line with the Fed’s target.
What this means for Fed policy and interest rates:
While October’s CPI reading represents meaningful progress for the Federal Reserve in its effort to bring down inflation, headline inflation remains well above the Fed’s 2.0% target. This means that rates will likely remain higher for longer, posing some risk to the apartment industry both directly and indirectly:
- Rising interest rates have already caused a sharp reduction in both apartment sales volume and new apartment construction, which will only lead to higher rental prices and worsening affordability conditions in the long run.
- Tight monetary policy threatens the strength of the broader job market and economy, which has not yet fully digested the rate hikes already enacted.
The Fed will have to account for these risks, along with the fact that core inflation has already subsided to nearly 2.0% when we account for the lag between asking rents and the shelter component of CPI.