In economics, nominal value is measured in terms of money, whereas real value is measured against goods or services. A real value is one which has been adjusted for inflation, enabling comparison of quantities as if the prices of goods had not changed on average. Changes in value in real terms therefore exclude the effect of inflation. In contrast with a real value, a nominal value has not been adjusted for inflation, and so changes in nominal value reflect at least in part the effect of inflation.
A commodity bundle is a sample of goods, which is used to represent the sum total of goods across the economy to which the goods belong, for the purpose of comparison across different times (or locations).
At a single point of time, a commodity bundle consists of a list of goods, and each good in the list has a market price and a quantity. The market value of the good is the market price times the quantity at that point of time. The nominal value of the commodity bundle at a point of time is the total market value of the commodity bundle, depending on the market price, and the quantity, of each good in the commodity bundle which are current at the time.
A price index is the relative price of a commodity bundle. A price index can be measured over time, or at different locations or markets. If it is measured over time, it is a series of values over time .
A time series price index is calculated relative to a base or reference date. is the value of the index at the base date. For example, if the base date is (the end of) 1992, is the value of the index at (the end of) 1992. The price index is typically normalized to start at 100 at the base date, so is set to 100.
The length of time between each value of and the next one, is normally constant regular time interval, such as a calendar year. is the value of the price index at time after the base date. equals 100 times the value of the commodity bundle at time , divided by the value of the commodity bundle at the base date.
If the price of the commodity bundle has increased by one percent over the first period after the base date, then P1 = 101.
The inflation rate between time and time is the change in the price index divided by the price index value at time :
expressed as a percentage.
The nominal value of a commodity bundle tends to change over time. In contrast, by definition, the real value of the commodity bundle in aggregate remains the same over time. The real values of individual goods or commodities may rise or fall against each other, in relative terms, but a representative commodity bundle as a whole retains its real value as a constant from one period to the next.
Real values can for example be expressed in constant 1992 dollars, with the price level fixed 100 at the base date.