Inflation is the name given to an increase in price levels generally. It is also manifest in the decline in the purchasing power of money
Inflation does not mean that the price of every good and service increases, but that on average the prices are rising.
Inflation reduces the value of money
Governments aim to control inflation because it reduces the value of money and the spending power of households, governments and firms.
A low and stable rate, of for instance 2%, is generally regarded not to be a problem. Indeed, seeing a low and steady rise in prices may encourage firms to produce more. Such a rate of inflation is sometimes known as creeping inflation.
Hyperinflation is a term to describe rapid, excessive, and out-of-control general price increases in an economy. This is often taken to be an inflation rate that exceeds 50%
Nominal prices are simply money prices, which can change over time due to inflation
In contrast, real prices have been adjusted for inflation.
Measurement of inflation
Inflation erodes the real value of money. In order to measure changes in the real value of money as a single figure, we need to group all goods and services into a single price index.
Consumer price index
A consumer price index is based on a chosen 'basket' of items which consumers purchase. A weighting is decided for each item according to the average spending on the item by consumers
Stages in constructing consumer price indices.
Selecting a base year:
This is usually a relatively standard year in which nothing unusual has occurred. It is given a value of 100. The base year is changed on a regular basis.
Carrying out a survey to find people’s spending patterns:
A sample of the population’s households are asked to keep a record of what they buy. The products purchased are placed into categories such as food and clothing and footwear.
Attaching weights to the different categories:
Weights are based on the proportion of total expenditure spent on the different categories. For instance, if on average households spend $500 of their total expenditure of $2,000 on food, the category will be given a weight of ¼ or 25%.
Finding out price changes:
Prices in a range of retail outlets and from a number of other sources such as gas companies and train companies are recorded.
Multiplying weights by price changes:
The total will give the change in the consumer price index but it can go much higher.