Authors: S. Brock Blomberg and Ethan S. Harris
The recent surge in commodity prices has rekindled interest in their power to predict consumer price inflation. But is this interest warranted? In examining the empirical relationship between commodity prices and consumer price inflation, this article finds that commodities' reputation as useful leading indicators of inflation is actually based more on fable than fact. Testing eight commonly used indexes, the authors conclude that although commodities had some predictive power in the past, the commodity-consumer price connection has broken down in the more recent period. They argue that this shift primarily reflects the diminished role of traditional commodities in U.S. production and the "sterilization" of some inflation signals by offsetting monetary policy actions.