Inflation finally may be climbing

Economists' predictions have missed for past four months

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Inflation finally is picking up in the United States — or at least, that’s the expectation of economists who have been wrong-footed by sub-par readings four months in a row.

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg say consumer prices excluding energy and food probably rose 0.2 percent in July from the previous month, according to the median estimate ahead of Friday’s data from the Labor Department. If right, that would end a four-month string of below-forecast readings in the so-called core index, the weakest stretch since 2010.

Most economists are counting on a depreciating dollar, rising import prices and a tight job market to generate stronger price pressures across the economy. Yet a significant minority — 21 of the 75 surveyed — estimate that inflation stayed subdued last month, with the core gauge rising only 0.1 percent.

Federal Reserve policymakers also seem divided over the inflation outlook. Some blame the recent run of low figures on transitory factors — cheap airfares being the latest culprit cited — while others aren’t so sure.

The resolution of that debate will go a long way toward determining whether the Federal Reserve presses ahead with its plan for one more interest-rate increase this year.

Data released Thursday don’t bode well for a pickup. Core wholesale prices unexpectedly fell 0.1 percent in July from the previous month, and a closely watched measure that also excludes trade services was unchanged.

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