Economics-Watching: Multivariate Core Trend Inflation

[from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York]


The Multivariate Core Trend (MCT) model measures inflation’s persistence in the seventeen core sectors of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index.

Whether inflation is short-lived or persistent, concentrated in a few sectors or broad-based, is of deep relevance to policymakers. We estimate a dynamic factor model on monthly data for the major sectors of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index to assess the extent of inflation persistence and its broadness. The results give a measure of trend inflation and shed light on whether inflation dynamics are dominated by a trend common across sectors or are sector-specific.

The New York Fed updates the MCT estimates and share sectoral insights at or shortly after 2 p.m. on the first Monday after the release of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Data are available for download.

September 2023 Update

  • Multivariate Core Trend (MCT) inflation was 2.9 percent in September, a 0.3 percentage point increase from August (which was revised up from 2.5 percent). The 68 percent probability band is (2.4, 3.3).
  • Services ex-housing accounted for 0.54 percentage point (ppt) of the increase in the MCT estimate relative to its pre-pandemic average, while housing accounted for 0.50 ppt. Core goods had the smallest contribution, 0.03 ppt.
  • A large part of the persistence in housing and services ex-housing is explained by the sector-specific component of the trend.

Latest Release: 2:00 p.m. ET October 31, 2023

View the Multivariate Core Trend of PCE Inflation data here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the goal of the Multivariate Core Trend (MCT) analysis?

The New York Fed aims to provide a measure of inflation’s trend, or “persistence,” and identify where the persistence is coming from.

What data are reported?

The New York Fed’s interactive charts report monthly MCT estimates from 1960 to the present. The New York Fed also provides estimates of how much three broad sectors (core goods, core services excluding housing, and housing) are contributing to overall trend inflation over the same time span. The New York Fed further distinguishes whether the persistence owes to common or sector-specific components. Data are available for download.

What is the release schedule?

The New York Fed updates the estimate of inflation persistence and share sectoral insights following the release of PCE price data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis each month.

What is the modeling strategy?

A dynamic factor model with time-varying parameters is estimated on monthly data for the seventeen major sectors of the PCE price index. The model decomposes each sector’s inflation as the sum of a common trend, a sector-specific trend, a common transitory shock, and a sector-specific transitory shock. The trend in PCE inflation is constructed as the sum of the common and the sector-specific trends weighted by the expenditure shares.

The New York Fed uses data from all seventeen of the PCE’s sectors; however, in constructing the trend in PCE inflation, we exclude the volatile non-core sectors (that is, food and energy). The approach builds on Stock and Watson’s 2016 “Core Inflation and Trend Inflation.”

How does the MCT measure differ from the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation measure?

The core inflation measure simply removes the volatile food and energy components. The MCT model seeks to further remove the transitory variation from the core sectoral inflation rates. This has been key in understanding inflation developments in recent years because, during the pandemic, many core sectors (motor vehicles and furniture, for example) were hit by unusually large transitory shocks. An ideal measure of inflation persistence should filter those out.

PCE data are subject to revision by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). How does that affect MCT estimates?

BEA monthly revisions as well as other BEA periodic revisions to PCE price data do lead to reassessments of the estimated inflation persistence as measured by the MCT estimates. Larger revisions may lead to a more significant reassessment. A recent example of the latter case is described on Liberty Street Economics in “Inflation Persistence: Dissecting the News in January PCE Data.”

Historical estimates in our MCT data series back to 1960 are based on the latest vintage of data available and incorporate all prior revisions.

How does the MCT Inflation measure relate to other inflation measures?

The MCT model adds to the set of tools that aim at measuring the persistent component of PCE price inflation. Some approaches, such as the Cleveland Fed’s Median PCE and the Dallas Fed’s Trimmed Mean, rely on the cross-sectional distribution of price changes in each period. Other approaches, such as the New York Fed’s Underlying Inflation Gauge (UIG), rely on frequency-domain time series smoothing methods. The MCT approach shares some features with them, namely: exploiting the cross-sectional distribution of price changes and using time series smoothing techniques. But the MCT model also has some unique features that are relevant to inflation data. For example, it allows for outliers and for the noisiness of the data and for the relation with the common component to change over time.

How useful can MCT data be for policymakers?

The MCT model provides a timely measure of inflationary pressure and provides insights on how much price changes comove across sectors.

View the Multivariate Core Trend of PCE Inflation data here.

Join Us for Conversations on Central Banking: Inflation and Monetary Policy

The Center for Inflation Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland invite you to attend Cleveland Fed Conversations on Central Banking, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, from 2:00 – 2:40 pm EST. The session topic will be Inflation and Monetary Policy.

Distinguished panelists include:

Jason Furman, Aetna Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Catherine Mann, Monetary Policy Committee Member, Bank of England

Ricardo Reis, A.W. Phillips Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science.

The session will be moderated by Colby Smith, U.S. Economics Editor, Financial Times.

View the entire agenda [archived PDF].

You must register in advance to attend. Upon registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing additional instructions to join the virtual meeting and a way to add it to your calendar.

If you have any questions, please contact