Did US inflation peak in March? Americans are concerned

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New York (CNN Business)Americans have been living with soaring prices for months. New inflation data set to be released Tuesday is expected to show that March marked yet another multi-decade high.

Having already hit 7.9% in February, economists are hopeful that rampant inflation peaked in the first quarter. But there’s plenty that will keep prices elevated for the rest of the year, and consumers are concerned. Even as the Federal Reserve has started to tighten monetary policy to get inflation under control, prices are still rising.
A year from now, consumers expect inflation to stand at 6.6%, according to the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations. That was a new high for the survey and up significantly from 6% in February.
The reading comes as the war in Ukraine drives up prices for energy and agricultural commodities.
To keep up with rising prices, Americans also expect their household spending to rise in the year to come, the survey found. Spending expectations rose to 7.7%, also a new high for the New York Fed’s survey and the biggest one-month jump since the series began in 2013.
Economists polled by Refinitiv predict the Consumer Price Index for March to hit 8.4%, which would match the level from January 1982 and mark a fresh 40-year high.
Whether that’s really the inflation peak remains to be seen, as the Ukraine conflict continues to add price pressure. Americans faced soaring prices at the pump in March, while food inflation is expected to stay elevated throughout the year.
So what to do?
The Fed has already started to roll back its pandemic stimulus, including raising interest rates last month for the first time since 2018. The central bank is expected to keep hiking rates this year to get inflation under control.
Market expectations for a rare half-percentage point increase at the Fed’s next meeting, in early May, are above 80%.
But there are concerns that the Fed’s actions could do more harm than good.
“If the Fed decides to bring 8% inflation down to their [roughly] 2% target on their own, that’s tough to do without causing a recession,” said strategists at Baird Private Wealth Management. Analysts at Deutsche Bank (DB) and Goldman Sachs (GS) have already warned that the Fed’s attempts at a soft landing could end up pulling the economy into a recession.

Russia rejects ‘default’ as it tries to pay in rubles

Bills are coming due, putting Russia on course for its first foreign debt default in a century.
On Friday, ratings agency S&P said Moscow offered bondholders payments in rubles, not dollars, which amounts to a “selective default.” In other words, investors likely won’t be able to convert those rubles into dollars equivalent to the outstanding amounts, which means even though Russia is paying, it is defaulting on its obligations.
Here’s where it’s a bit murky: Moscow has a grace period of 30 days, beginning April 4, to make the payments of capital and interest. That will be difficult to do under Western sanctions.
To be sure, Russia has the money. It just can’t access a bunch of it.
Since 2014, the Kremlin has built up about $640 billion in foreign reserves. More than half of those funds are now frozen under Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s planning to dispute the “default” label, though it’s not clear how.
“We will sue, because we undertook all necessary action so that investors would receive their payments,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper on Monday.
“We will show the court proof of our payments, to confirm our efforts to pay in rubles, just as we did in foreign currency. It won’t be a simple process,” he added. He did not say whom Russia planned to sue.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a press conference last week that any default would be “artificial” because Russia has the dollars to pay — it just can’t access them.
“There are no grounds for a real default,” Peskov said. “Not even close.”

Musk’s Twitter U-turn

The saga has been downright dizzying.
After a whirlwind week in which Twitter announced that Elon Musk had become its biggest shareholder and would join its board, Twitter (TWTR) CEO Parag Agrawal said Sunday night that Musk wouldn’t become a director after all.
These are stunning developments even for Twitter, a company that is certainly no stranger to corporate chaos, my colleague Clare Duffy writes. And it could be the start of many headaches to come for its relatively new chief executive.
Musk still has his 9.2% stake and more than 80 million followers on the platform. In other words, he may be saying no to the board seat but he’s almost certainly not done trying to shake up Twitter.
Some analysts expect Musk to try to buy up even more of the company’s shares, now that he’s untethered by the board’s stipulation that he cap his ownership at 14.9%. If Agrawal has thus far been dealing with a friendly Musk, one can only imagine what a hostile approach would look like.
In an investor note Monday, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives laid out a few possible scenarios for Musk’s next steps, including joining up with a private equity partner to force changes or even to orchestrate a takeover. Or, Musk could simply go on “creating more noise and angst for Twitter Board/execs.”
At the end of the day, Musk is a wild card and he’s now a force powerful enough to undermine Agrawal’s leadership just as he’s taken over.

Up next

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its US consumer prices report at 8:30 am ET.
Also today: Earnings from CarMax (KMX) and Albertsons.
Coming tomorrow: US producer prices; earnings from JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Delta (DAL), BlackRock (BLK) and Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY).