National

Inflation expected to have slowed significantly in January

NEW YORK — Inflation data to be released on Tuesday will show whether price increases resumed a monthslong slowdown in January.

The report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics follows a slight acceleration of price increases in December. That jump in inflation complicated the Federal Reserve's plans to deescalate its inflation fight with a series of interest rate cuts this year.

Fewer than two weeks ago, the central bank decided to leave interest rates unchanged, opting to observe further economic performance before reversing a near-historic series of rate increases that began last year.

Economists expect Tuesday's data to show prices have increased 2.9% over the year ending in January, which would mark a significant slowdown from the annual pace of 3.4% recorded over the previous month.

Core inflation -- a measure that strips out volatile food and energy prices -- is expected to have increased 3.7% over the year ending in January, which would also amount to a cooldown from the prior month.

Inflation has fallen dramatically from a peak last year, but it remains more than a percentage point above the Fed's target of 2%.

The U.S. economy has largely defied the central bank's efforts to slow the economy by raising borrowing costs for households and businesses.

The economy far exceeded expectations by adding 353,000 jobs last month while holding the unemployment rate steady at 3.7%, a historically low figure, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month.

Gross domestic product performed much better than expected at the end of last year, a report this month showed, while consumer sentiment soared in January.

The blockbuster performance, however, could pose a challenge for the inflation fight taken up by policymakers at the Federal Reserve.

The Fed risks a rebound of inflation if it cuts interest rates too quickly, since stronger consumer demand could lead to an acceleration of price increases.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., late last month, Fed Chair Jerome Powell celebrated the steady decline of inflation over recent months and welcomed the robust hiring occurring alongside it. However, he cautioned about the risks posed by an economy that runs too hot.

"We're not looking for a weaker labor market," Powell said. "We're looking for inflation to continue to come down, as it has been coming down for the last six months."

"We're not declaring victory at this point," he later added. "We think we have a ways to go."

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