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Outlook for credit access hits record low, inflation expectations jump

A customer shops for eggs at a H-E-B grocery store on February 08, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Wholesale egg prices have begun declining more than 50% since December record highs according to Urner Barry data.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Consumers are getting more pessimistic about inflation and their access to credit, according to the results of a monthly survey the New York Federal Reserve released Monday.

Respondents expect prices to rise by half a percentage point in the year ahead, equating to a 4.7% annual gain, the central bank branch’s Survey of Consumer Expectations for March showed.

That’s the first time the near-term outlook increased since October and runs counter to the narrative from Fed officials that they expect inflation to subside as a series of interest rate increases take hold. In their most recent economic projections, policymakers said they anticipate inflation including food and energy prices to decline to 2.5% in 2024.

The current one-year outlook is down from 6.6% from the same time in 2022, but is running well ahead of the Fed’s 2% inflation goal. Expectations on a three- and five-year horizon were little changed, at 2.8% and 2.5%, respectively.

Consumers expect gas prices to rise by 4.6% in the year ahead, slightly less than the February outlook, and they see food prices up 5.9%, which was a decline of 1.4 percentage points from last month’s survey.

At the same time, consumers see their access to credit diminishing.

Those reporting that credit is much or somewhat harder to get than a year ago rose to 58.2%, the highest ever in a data series that goes back to June 2013. Likewise, the expectation that credit will be more difficult to get a year from now rose to nearly 53%, up from 48.8% in February.

The outlook for missing a minimum debt payment in the next year rose by 0.3 percentage point to 10.9% of respondents.

The survey also showed less optimism about stocks, with just 35% expecting higher prices a year from now, down 1.4 percentage points on a monthly basis.

The results come as the Fed considers whether to continue raising interest rates or to go on hold when it meets again in May. Current market pricing sees a 69% probability of another quarter percentage point increase, according to the CME Group.


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