Biden says lowering prices a priority, but experts predict more pain

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- President Biden says lowering consumer prices is the top domestic priority now and he's expected to lay out a plan to lower food prices on Wednesday.

According to the latest numbers, consumer prices slightly fell in May and we may have hit peak inflation numbers.

Analysts predict prices jumped 8.1% this month, compared to this time last year. That's down from 8.5% last month.

The bad news is that experts say we could continue to see core inflation stay high for months, including grocery and gas prices.

When it comes to prices at the pump the Triangle hit new record highs overnight.

Raleigh averages $4.20 a gallon, Durham is at $4.19 and Fayetteville sits at $4.17. The state average is up from $3.86 to $4.17, since just last month.

"I have a pickup truck and it takes $100 or more to fill it now. So we're driving less. We're being around town. So we had family come in, we came to this park whereas we may have ventured out further," said Steve Rich, who is semi-retired.

A retired Triangle woman also voiced frustration Wednesday with the economic climate.

"I'm on Social Security. So gas is one, but it fluctuates, 30, 40 cents a week. Up, down, whoever's trying to make the most points. And it's total greed and it really upsets me," said Deborah Bertolani, who added she would have preferred more targeted relief at the beginning of the pandemic.

Since the start of the year oil prices are up nearly 40%, with many areas nearing or hitting all-time high gas prices.

"We actually had the supply chain shocks were originally just production of the product. But now we've got to get the product to the consumer, and that usually involves gas," explained Dr. Richard Warr, the Associate Dean for Faculty and Research at the Poole College of Management at NC State, who also serves as a professor of finance.

The energy sector has a large impact on food pricing, both of which have been affected in part by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

"Ukraine's a big exporter of wheat and so we're seeing some pressure in for example cereals and baked goods. We're also seeing pressure in agriculture as well which are a big import into fertilizer and agricultural production," said Warr.

Food prices are up .9% month-over-month, with eggs alone up 10.3%. Other staples such as milk, chicken, ground beef, butter/margarine, cereal, rice and pasta are up more than double-digit percentages in the past 12 months.

Efforts to rein in inflation have included tapping oil reserves and improving infrastructure at ports to ease supply chain woes

"The federal government has limited tools to affect inflation. The Federal Reserve is really where most of the action is at, and I think they're going to be aggressively raising interest rates for the rest of the year," Warr explained.

It comes as the stock market continues to fall; year-to-date the Dow has dropped by about 12%, and the Nasdaq is down about 25%.

"I retired early counting on that 401K for the long-term. And it's taken a significant hit, so as recently as yesterday, I started looking at jobs to go back and at least make some money," said Rich.

Wednesday, the Dow finished below 32,000 for the first time in more than two years, while the Nasdaq closed at its lowest since November of 2021.
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