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Headline Inflation

What Is Headline Inflation?

Headline inflation is the raw inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that is released monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The CPI calculates the cost to purchase a fixed basket of goods to determine how much inflation is occurring in the broad economy. The CPI uses a base year and indexes the current year's prices, according to the base year's values.

Key Takeaways

  • Headline inflation is the raw inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • The CPI determines inflation by calculating the prices on a fixed basket of goods.
  • Core inflation removes the CPI components that can exhibit large amounts of volatility from month to month.


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What Is Inflation?

Headline Inflation Explained

As it includes all aspects within an economy that experience inflation, headline inflation is not adjusted to remove highly volatile figures, including those that can shift regardless of economic conditions. Headline inflation is often closely related to shifts in the cost of living, which provides useful information to consumers within the marketplace.

The headline figure is not adjusted for seasonality or for the often-volatile elements of food and energy prices, which are removed in the core CPI. Headline inflation is usually quoted on an annualized basis, meaning that a monthly headline figure of 4% inflation equates to a monthly rate that, if repeated for 12 months, would create 4% inflation for the year. Comparisons of headline inflation are typically made on a year-over-year basis, also known as top-line inflation.

Negatives of Rising Inflation

Inflation is a threat to long-term investors because it erodes the value of future dollars, can stifle economic growth, and can cause a rise in prevailing interest rates. While headline inflation tends to get the most attention in the media, core inflation is often considered the more valuable metric to follow. Both headline and core results are followed closely by investors, and are also used by economists and central banking figures to set economic growth forecasts and monetary policy.

Core Inflation

Core inflation removes the CPI components that can exhibit large amounts of volatility from month to month, which can cause unwanted distortion to the headline figure. The most commonly removed factors are those relating to the costs of food and energy. Food prices can be affected by factors outside of those attributed to the economy, such as environmental shifts that cause issues in the growth of crops. Energy costs, such as oil production, can be affected by forces outside of traditional supply and demand, such as political dissent.

From 1957 till 2018, the average core inflation rate in the United States was listed as 3.64%. The all-time high was 13.60%, which occurred in June 1980. The lowest rate was recorded in May 1957 with an inflation rate of 0%. As of 2018, the Federal Reserve’s goal rate for core inflation is 2%.

What is a central bank?

A central bank is a financial institution given privileged control over the production and distribution of money and credit for a nation or a group of nations. In modern economies, the central bank is usually responsible for the formulation of monetary policy and the regulation of member banks. Central banks are inherently non-market-based or even anti-competitive institutions. Although some are nationalized, many central banks are not government agencies, and so are often touted as being politically independent. However, even if a central bank is not legally owned by the government, its privileges are established and protected by law. The critical feature of a central bank—distinguishing it from other banks—is its legal monopoly status, which gives it the privilege to issue banknotes and cash. Private commercial banks are only permitted to issue demand liabilities, such as checking deposits.

What is the cost of living?

The cost of living is the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain place and time period. The cost of living is often used to compare how expensive it is to live in one city versus another, and it is tied to wages. If expenses are higher in a city, such as New York, for example, salary levels must be higher so that people can afford to live in that city.

What is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a federal agency that collects and disseminates various data about the U.S. economy and labor market. Its reports include the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Producer Price Index (PPI), both of which are considered to be important measures of inflation.

Article Sources
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  1. Federal Reserve. "Monetary Policy Report – February 2018." Accessed Jan. 26, 2021.

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