Inflation is slowing but consumers aren’t feeling it.
In August, for the first time in two years, inflation (excluding volatile food and energy costs) dropped below four percent. Last week, one of the Federal Reserve (Fed)’s favored inflation measures – the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index – indicated that prices rose 3.9 percent, year-over-year, in August 2023. That’s an improvement from January, when prices rose by 4.9 percent, year-over-year, but it remains above the Fed’s target of 2 percent.
While slowing inflation is good news, many Americans are not feeling relief. “Even as the Federal Reserve’s favored measure of price gains eases, the cost of food, gasoline, car insurance and other essentials is still elevated after two years of persistent increases…It costs $734 more each month to buy the same goods and services as two years ago for households who earn the median income,” according to a source cited by Mark Niquette, Jarrell Dillard and Michael Sasso of The Washington Post.
Ongoing pain in the pocketbook is due, in part, to higher oil prices, which are not included in core inflation numbers. The price of crude oil rose to the highest level in more than a year last week, before falling slightly. Rising prices resulted from low inventories and reduced production levels among OPEC+ (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus 11 other non-OPEC members) that reduced global oil supply, reported Lee Ying Shan of CNBC. In August, the cost of gasoline, lubricants, and other oil-related products rose, reported Jeffry Bartash of MarketWatch.
Regardless of oil prices, investors were hopeful last week that the Fed might not raise rates again in 2023. Revised economic data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed the economy grew at a slightly slower pace in the second quarter of 2023 than it did in the first quarter. In addition, consumer spending, which is the primary driver behind economic growth in the United States, cooled. The data suggest the Fed is making progress – reducing price pressures by slowing economic growth and lowering demand for goods.
Stocks moved higher on Thursday before reversing course. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week lower, according to Barron’s. Yields on longer-term U.S. Treasuries moved higher over the week.
THE DOS AND DON’TS OF CELLPHONE ETIQUETTE. Many people of a certain age were taught a set of rules for making phone calls (between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.), talking on the phone (never do it while eating or brushing your teeth), and greeting callers (“Hello” or “Good morning/afternoon” and never “What do you want?”).
As cellphones have become ubiquitous, the etiquette of phone calls has changed. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” of evolving cellphone etiquette:
Don’t leave voicemail messages. Many people read transcripts of voice messages rather than listening to the message itself. Often transcription is inaccurate. If information needs to be communicated in a timely and accurate way, it is better to send a text message, reported Heather Kelly of The Washington Post.
Do text before calling. While baby boomers grew up making and receiving phone calls (often on landlines with long tangled cords), younger generations find phone calls to be inefficient, time-consuming, presumptuous, and disruptive, according to a survey conducted by the BankMyCell blog. They also find phone calls to be stressful, and four-in-five indicated they must ratchet up their courage before making a call.
Don’t take calls in a public place (or use your speakerphone in public). Find a private area to take the call or offer to call the person back when you have privacy. It is discourteous to the people around you to chat in public and it may jeopardize the privacy of the person on the phone. For similar reasons, it is never a good idea to use a speakerphone in a public place, advises Lisa Lyons of Events & Etiquette.
Despite a growing preference for texting, calling is not passé. “While hopping on the phone may be less common or involve more planning than it used to, it’s still a wonderful way to communicate. Talking to a person in real time can strengthen relationships, improve mental health, and lessen loneliness,” reported The Washington Post.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
—Anne Lamott, author