Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 13, 2022

Inflation rises to fastest pace in four decades, the federal deficit falls to a two-year low as tax receipts rise, and more

1

Consumer prices rise at fastest pace in 4 decades

U.S. inflation rose to an annual rate of 7 percent last year, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. The jump in the consumer price index in December, compared to a year earlier, marked the highest annual inflation since 1982. It was the third straight month above 6 percent. Pandemic-related supply problems contributed to the slight increase from November's 6.8 percent annual rate. The core price index, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose by 5.5 percent in December compared to a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1991. "While inflation is likely to peak in the next few months, the overall pace is going to remain a challenge for consumers, businesses, and policy," said Sarah House, director and senior economist at Wells Fargo.

2

Federal deficit fell to 2-year low in December

The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the federal government's December deficit was $21.3 billion, the smallest monthly shortfall in two years. The shift came as the economy rebounded from the worst damage of the coronavirus pandemic, boosting tax receipts while spending on COVID-19 relief programs declined. The government has posted a $377.7 billion deficit since Oct. 1 in the first three months of the budget year, a 30.1 percent drop compared to the same period a year ago, when Washington was spending trillions to support families and businesses struggling to stay afloat through the coronavirus pandemic. Those programs are being used less now, and some have expired.

3

U.S. college enrollment drops again

U.S. college enrollment dropped by 465,300 students, or 3.1 percent, in the fall compared to a year earlier, according to a report released Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The decline, which came as universities took steps back to normal operations, continued a trend that began earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 1 million students now missing from U.S. campuses as attitudes shift about the value of a college education, potentially altering a generation's career prospects. "The longer this continues, the more it starts to build its own momentum as a cultural shift and not just a short-term effect of the of the pandemic disruptions," Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, told The Washington Post.

4

Stock futures modestly higher despite inflation report

U.S. stock futures were nearly flat early Thursday after Wall Street made modest gains on Wednesday despite the sharpest monthly rise in the consumer price index in four decades. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were all up by about 0.1 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. On Wednesday, all three of the main U.S. indexes closed slightly higher despite a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that the December consumer price index, a key measure of inflation, rose at an annual rate of 7 percent in December, the fastest pace since June 1982. The Nasdaq rose by 0.2 percent, its third straight day of gains. The S&P 500 and the Dow rose by 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

5

Manhattan rents surge to highest ever recorded in month of December

Manhattan's median rent rose to nearly $3,400 in December as vaccination rates rose and affluent renters returned to New York City, according to a new report from brokerage Douglas Elliman. The December median marked the highest ever recorded in the normally slow month. The median net-effective rent, adjusted for concessions from landlords, was $3,392, up 21 percent from the same period last year. The highest median rent for any month reached $3,540 a month in April 2020. Slowing lease activity suggested that rental activity is starting to return to pre-pandemic norms after the surge, said Jonathan J. Miller, an appraiser and the report's author.

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