When Should We Start Worrying About Inflation?

"If unemployment is (perhaps well) below 3.50% and inflation above 2%, we think Fed officials will need to be quite confident that growth will ...

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Inflation report doesn't tell whole story for most consumers

Friday's report by the U.S. Labor Department showing a sharp drop in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is, at first glance, good news for consumers.

The December CPI fell 0.4%, largely on the steep drop in gasoline prices. That gave consumers who drive cars a nice end-of-the-year bonus.

But consumers who don't drive a car didn't fare nearly as well. And even motorists had to give back some of their fuel savings when they sat down at the dinner table.

Rising food prices

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As an retired farmer, this caught my eye

Falling production in commodities from rice to milk is bad news for just about everyone except investors.

Rice may surge 63 percent to $1,038 a metric ton from $638 on Philippine imports and a shortage in India, a Bloomberg survey of importers, exporters and analysts showed. The U.S. government says nonfat dry milk may jump 39 percent next year, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. forecasts a 25 percent gain for sugar. Global food costs jumped 7 percent in November, the most since February 2008, four months before reaching a record, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Farm prices this year lagged behind copper futures that doubled and oil’s 57 percent increase. A recovery from the worst recession since World War II would spur food demand and boost costs for buyers of commodities including milk processor Dean Foods Co. while increasing the number of hungry people that the UN says now exceeds 1 billion.

“Agricultural commodities will be a great investment in the next three to five years,” said Oliver Kratz, who manages $10 billion as head of Global Thematic Strategy investments at Deutsche Bank AG’s DB Advisors in New York, including $3 billion in agriculture. For those who can’t afford to pay more for food, there’s the “painful” risk of hunger, he said.

Expanding populations and higher incomes are boosting consumption in China and India. China’s milk demand is recovering after domestic supplies were tainted with melamine, a chemical used in making plastics that killed at least six babies and sickened almost 300,000 children. Droughts in India and Argentina and typhoons in the Philippines have reduced output.

Food-Price Risk


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