A Key Inflation Gauge Is Still Rising, and War Could Make It Worse

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“I know this is hard and that Americans are already hurting,” Mr. Biden said during an address on Thursday. “I will do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump. This is critical to me. But this aggression cannot go unanswered.”

Rising fuel prices are painful for consumers, but economic policymakers typically try to look past them when setting policy because energy costs are so volatile. But officials are closely watching to see if inflation continues to broaden into categories that have been less driven by pandemic-tied supply constraints, like rent and other services.

Strong consumer spending has helped to fuel the increase in prices, giving companies the wherewithal to charge more. Friday’s report also showed that personal outlays climbed by 2.1 percent in January from the prior year, beating the central analyst forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

SeaWorld, the amusement park chain, posted strong financial results at the end of 2021 as the brand managed to attract guests and charge more even as many travelers from abroad remained at home thanks to the ongoing pandemic.

“Our pricing and product strategies along with the strong consumer demand environment continued to drive higher realized pricing and strong guest spending,” Elizabeth Castro Gulacsy, the company’s chief financial officer, said during a Feb. 24 earnings call.

“We’re operating in a good economic environment,” Marc Swanson, the company’s chief executive officer, later added. “So that’s obviously benefited us.”

Yet even as the economy enters 2022 with consumption hot, policymakers will be watching to see if demand wanes on its own as government pandemic relief programs tail off and as uncertainty stemming from the invasion of Ukraine threatens confidence.

“It is possible that the state of the world will be different in the wake of the Ukraine attack, and that may mean that a more modest” change in monetary policy is appropriate, Mr. Waller from the Fed said. “But that remains to be seen.”

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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