More pressure on pocketbooks

first_imgCHICAGO – Prices on everything from cereal and milk to soft drinks and red meat are on the upswing, due partly to the ethanol and biodiesel boom that is pushing up prices for corn and other commodities. High energy prices also remain troublesome, regardless of how high a gallon of gas climbs, and clothing costs are up this year, too. All that explains why Federal Reserve policymakers cited “uncomfortably high” inflation readings as being their biggest worry, according to minutes released Wednesday of their private discussions last month. “It feels like we could be in for a period of higher inflation at our stores and restaurants, for a year or two or three,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com in West Chester, Pa. The government reported Friday that wholesale prices rose 1 percent in March, mostly because of the biggest jumps in energy (3.6 percent) and gasoline (8.7 percent) prices since November. Adding to the pinch, apparel prices on spring merchandise have been up. And dairy economists predict the retail price of milk could jump 9 percent by fall. This may all sound familiar to those who remember experts fretting about food prices edging up a year ago while gasoline made its seasonal warm-weather surge. But Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at LaSalle Bank in Chicago, says he’s concerned that productivity growth is slowing down, labor costs are rising, and food, energy, health care and education costs are on the move – all at the same time. The year-over-year change in the consumer price index, which is heavily influenced by energy prices, has been running at 2.7 percent to 2.8 percent, about the highest it’s been in the past year. The next report, for price changes in March, is due out Tuesday. “I’m not suggesting inflation’s going to rage out of control,” Tannenbaum said. “But especially given that the (Fed’s informal) target is 2 percent, we seem to be moving quite a bit away from it.” The good news for consumers is that the price rises may not be allowed to get too severe. Zandi said that if inflation shows any signs of accelerating significantly, the Fed likely would raise the overnight bank lending rate to slow growth and “knock the wind out” of inflationary pressures. “They would sacrifice growth in the interest of stopping inflation,” he said. “In the long run, you get more growth if inflation is stable and low.” An undesirable consequence of that, of course, would be higher borrowing costs, nudging credit-card and mortgage rates still higher. “The erosion of value when prices are higher because of interest rates is something that can’t be dismissed,” said Tannenbaum. “If you add half a percent to the rate Americans pay on a mortgage, that can adds thousands and thousands of dollars to the price of a mortgage on a 15- or 30-year loan.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Prices were flat for the month on a wider range of goods that excludes food and energy. While that suggests inflation is not yet in danger of spreading throughout the economy, the news offers little solace to many consumers already feeling greater pressures on their pocketbook spending. Jessica Parks, a work-from-home mom in Summerville, Ga., said she’s cut back on regular family outings to restaurants and bowling alleys. “There’s just no room in the budget,” said Parks, who works for a customer service company. “With children especially, the cost of clothing and everything and the grocery bill is getting worse.” After losing the family home in a fire last December, she bought replacement clothes for the kids online and at a local Wal-Mart and was appalled to find it cost $700 instead of the roughly $400 she was anticipating. The most recent shock came when a single cartful of groceries came to over $300. “It’s hard to deal with,” Parks said. “And a lot of people are asking why. Everything’s just getting to be outrageous.” One familiar irritant, the price of gasoline, has soared well above $3 a gallon in some places this spring. That could be temporary. The Energy Information Administration said in a forecast released Tuesday that the recent spike in prices should ease in coming weeks. last_img read more

Around Whittier

first_imgMONTEBELLO – Two individuals filed nomination papers Thursday in the recall election of Councilman Jeff Siccama, the City Clerk’s Office announced. Leo Rodriguez and Mary Anne Saucedo’s papers have been submitted to the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office for verification, said Debbie Kosareff, Montebello deputy city clerk. Rodriguez is running in the Nov. 6 council election, and Saucedo is a former council member. The recall election is set for Dec. 18. It’s the first in the city since 1932, according to city officials. Siccama was targeted by the public action group Montebello Citizens for Honest Government in a petition drive last April in response to efforts to explore the county taking over the city’s fire services. On Aug. 22, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office verified 5,028 signatures of registered voters of the 6,717 total signatures filed. At least 4,713 verified signatures were required to trigger a recall election. “I support the right of the voters and the democratic process,” Siccama, 46, said in a prepared statement after the election was announced. “I do not question the validity of the signatures themselves, but I believe the voters were misled.” The City Clerk’s Office is expecting to get verification from the county by Tuesday. Conservancy to mark 20th year WHITTIER – The Whittier Conservancy is celebrating its 20th anniversary at 6 p.m. today at the historic home of Mary Sullens, 6235 Bright Ave. Members of the conservancy, founded in the aftermath of the 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake, will reminisce and celebrate 20 years as a force in preserving the historic charm and character of the community with “its historic buildings, tree-lined streets and pristine undeveloped hillsides.” The night’s festivities include citing examples of historic preservation and community enhancement projects and giving recognition to the people behind them. Admission at $25 per person includes a dinner catered by Crepes and Grapes Restaurant. There will also be a silent auction. Proceeds will help with the conservancy’s annual operating costs. Gardens at Whittier sets Oktoberfest WHITTIER – The Gardens at Whittier, 8101 S. Painter Ave., is hosting an Oktoberfest event from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday. The event will include plenty of food. Entertainment will be provided by Joe Tater. For more information and reservations, call (562) 698-0696, or go to www.emeritus.com. Weekly movie showings to begin LA MIRADA – The La Mirada Activity Center, 13810 La Mirada Blvd., welcomes families to its At the Movies program at 1 p.m. every Saturday, starting today. Today’s movie is “The Haunted Mansion.” Free popcorn and punch will be served. You are advised to come early to get a good seat. The entire schedule is: “Everyone’s Hero” (Oct. 13), “The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie” (Oct. 20) and “Monster House” (Oct. 27). The movies are sponsored by Movie Express, 15775 Imperial Highway. For more information, call (562) 902-3160, or visit the Web at www.cityoflamirada.org. Chamber plans network luncheon PICO RIVERA – The Chamber of Commerce is hosting a network luncheon at noon Tuesday at Casa Gamino, 9060 Slauson Ave. The event, sponsored by Banco Popular, will include lunch, an opportunity to meet new people and promote your business and a presentation by guest speaker Monica Contreras of Banco Popular. The cost is $10 for members and $20 for non-members. There will also be a members-only cash drawing. The winner must be present. For more information, call (562) 949-2473. – From staff reports 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more