US Inflation Eases, Consumer Prices Flat in January 2013

US inflation eased a bit over the past year as consumer prices overall stayed flat in January 2013, the US government reported Thursday in Washington.

Costlier housing, vehicles, clothing and airline fares were offset by lower energy prices, a situation likely to reverse itself in February with gasoline surging in recent weeks.

Consumer prices were unchanged in January for the second month in a row, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Food prices were notably flat after rising 0.2% for three straight months. Overall energy prices fell 1.7%, led by a 3% drop in prices at the pump.

Excluding volatile food and energy, the so-called core US Inflation rate in January climbed 0.3%, the biggest increase since May 2011 and after rising 0.1% in December.

Ticking higher was clothing by 0.8%, new vehicles by 0.1%, used vehicles by 0.2%, transportation by 0.5%, airline fares by 1.1% and shelter by 0.2%.

US inflation advanced 1.6% over the past 12 months, the smallest gain since July. By comparison, US inflation rose 1.7% in 2012. That was down significantly from the 3% level in 2011.

"The 12-month change has been slowing since its recent peak of 2.2 percent in October," the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) report which is the government’s key measure of US inflation.

"The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.9 percent over the last 12 months, the same figure as the last two months. The food index has risen 1.6 percent over the last 12 months while the energy index has declined 1.0 percent."

Once again, core US inflation rose 1.9% year-over-year through January. That matches same reading increases in each of the previous two months. This 12-month rate is monitored closely by the Federal Reserve as it helps decide where the central bank sets its benchmark interest rate. The level is a below the Fed’s 2% inflation target.

"This does give them [the Fed] a little bit more leeway," Bloomberg quoted Ira Jersey, an interest-rate strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG in New York, one of 21 primary dealers that trade with the Fed.

"It tells them the policies they have in place seem to be working when you have a modest uptick in inflation, but not a crazy uptick."

US inflation data from July through January and over the past 12 months follow.

July 2012 – January 2013 Consumer Prices – Gains in Percent

  July 2012 Aug 2012 Sept 2012 Oct 2012 Nov 2012 Dec 2012 Jan 2013 12
Month
All items .0 0.5 0.5 0.2 -0.2 .0 .0 1.6
  Food 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 .0 1.6
    Food at home .0 0.1 -0.1 0.3 0.3 0.2 .0 1.1
    Food away from home 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 2.3
  Energy -1.3 4.6 3.9 0.1 -3.4 -0.8 -1.7 -1.0
    Energy commodities -1.3 7.3 6.1 0.1 -5.7 -1.5 -3.0 -1.4
      Gasoline (all types) -1.4 7.6 6.3 -0.1 -6.0 -1.9 -3.0 -1.5
      Fuel oil -0.5 4.6 4.1 1.1 -0.2 .0 -0.2 2.0
    Energy services -1.2 0.4 0.4 .2 0.6 0.3 0.4 -0.3
      Electricity -1.5 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.2 1.1 0.5
      Utility (piped) gas service -0.3 1.5 1.2 -0.2 1.5 0.7 -1.7 -2.5
  All items less food, energy 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.3 1.9
    Comm. less food, energy .0 -0.2 -0.1 .0 -0.1 -0.1 0.2 0.4
      New vehicles .0 0.2 .0 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.1 1.7
      Used cars and trucks -0.6 -1.1 -1.4 -0.7 -0.4 -0.3 0.2 -1.3
      Apparel -0.2 -0.1 0.5 0.6 -0.5 0.1 0.8 2.1
      Medical care 0.7 0.3 -0.1 0.1 -0.3 -0.3 0.1 1.5
    Services less energy 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 2.5
      Shelter 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.2 2.2
      Transportation .0 .0 0.5 0.6 0.2 0.4 0.5 3.0
      Medical care 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.2 3.6

 

The US Labor Department will release February’s round of Consumer Price Index data at 8:30 AM ET on March 15, 2013. The CPI is the core data used in this site’s Inflation Calculator.

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