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CNBC Daily Open: Don’t worry about August’s hotter-than-expected CPI

In this article

Gasoline prices for full serve and self serve are displayed at the Union 76 gas station ahead of the Labor Day weekend on August 28, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

This report is from today’s CNBC Daily Open, our new, international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

What you need to know today

Biggest monthly jump this year
The U.S. consumer price index for August rose 3.7% from a year ago and a seasonally adjusted 0.6% for the month, mostly in line with the expected 3.6% and 0.6%, respectively. Though expected, it’s still the biggest month-on-month increase in prices this year. Energy prices, which soared on the month, were mostly to blame. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, was up 4.3% on the year and 0.3% on the month.

Optimistic markets
U.S. markets were mixed Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average the only major index to fall. Asia-Pacific stocks mostly rose Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 climbed 1.47% even as shares of Softbank slipped slightly. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added around 0.55% as data showed unemployment rate in the country holding steady at 3.7% in August.

The risks of shadow banks in China
The difficulties faced by China’s real estate sector recently have highlighted, once again, the risks of shadow banking — a term that refers to financial services offered outside the highly regulated banking system. Chinese developers “were able to borrow liberally from shadow banks,” a researcher said, which pushed up land prices and housing costs. That contributed to the developers’ huge debt today.

Taiwan is ‘not for sale’
At the All-In Summit, a conference on technology and markets, Elon Musk commented that China probably views Taiwan as “analogous to Hawaii or something like that, like an integral part of China that is arbitrarily not part of China.” It drew a swift rebuke from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said Taiwan is “not part of the PRC and certainly not for sale!”

[PRO] An Arm and a leg
Arm is pricing its initial public offering at $51 per share, the top of its expected price range. That values the company at over $54 billion, giving it a price-to-earnings multiple of about 104. It’s a lofty multiple, comparable to Nvidia’s 110 for the previous 12 months. Read what four analysts have to say about the risks and benefits of buying Arm shares.

The bottom line

At first glance, August’s CPI report seems bad news. The month-over-month jump in prices is the highest in a year. And even core inflation came in hotter than expected. But look more closely and you’ll find things aren’t as terrifying as they seem.

The headline number was pushed up by rising oil prices, which have been steadily increasing in recent weeks, as we’ve talked about. Gasoline prices soared 10.6% in August, the largest contributor to inflation last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s likely gasoline prices will fall after a month or two, according to Andrew Hunter, deputy chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. And gasoline prices have actually retreated 3.3% from a year ago, suggesting that they’re still on a downward trend in the long run.

Excluding volatile energy prices, monthly core inflation was up 0.3% against the expected 0.2%. Here, shelter costs were the main culprit for the hotter-than-expected increase. “Housing continues to contribute an outsized share to the inflation measures,” said Lisa Sturtevant, chief economist at Bright MLS.

But, Sturtevant added, “rent growth has slowed considerably and median rents nationally fell year-over-year in August.” That slowdown in prices will show up in future reports, meaning that August’s core CPI numbers is just “a little bump in the road,” as Kayla Bruun, senior economist at Morning Consult, put it.

“It doesn’t mean it’s turning around and going in the other direction,” Bruun said. “Overall, most of the pieces are headed in the right direction.” Indeed, the annual measure of core CPI still dropped from 4.7% in July to 4.3% in August.

Markets took the numbers in their stride. The Dow was the only major index to fall, losing 0.2% as shares of 3M and Caterpillar sank. The S&P 500 added 0.12% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.29%, helped by gains in Tesla and Amazon. And traders are still betting the Federal Reserve won’t raise rates next week, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

Markets can act in irrational ways sometimes. But sometimes, the crowd psychology of markets manifests as collective wisdom.

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox and Greg Iacurci contributed to this report

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