US Inflation Surges, Consumer Prices Up 0.5% in February 2011

Americans paid more for goods and services in February as surging energy and food prices continued to lift US inflation, the US Labor Department said in a report published Thursday.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the government’s main barometer for tracking US inflation, rose higher than expected and continued a streak of sharp increases which began in December. Consumer prices climbed 0.5 percent in February 2011, the most since June 2009 when the monthly price index reached 0.9 percent. Many economists were forecasting an increase of 0.4 percent, matching January’s level.

While most of the items tracked by the Labor Department showed gains, soaring food and energy costs easily led consumer prices.

"Though the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index was broad-based, the energy index was once again the largest contributor. The gasoline index continued to rise, and the index for household energy turned up in February with all of its components posting increases," the department said. "Food indexes also continued to rise in February, with sharp increases in the indexes for fresh vegetables and meats contributing to a 0.8 percent increase in the food at home index, the largest since July 2008."

Last month food and energy prices were up 0.6 and 3.4 percent, respectively, as compared to 0.5 and 2.1 percent in the previous month. Over the past year, food costs have advanced 2.3 percent while energy prices have surged 11 percent, with gasoline prices soaring 19.2 percent. Prices at the pump were up 4.7 percent in February, capping a string of eight consecutive monthly increases.

Other price increases in February included shelter, medical care, airline fares, transportation, recreation and new and used vehicles. Clothing was one of the few areas to drop. Prices fell 0.9 percent during the month, their biggest decline since July 2006.

Stripping out the more volatile food and energy items, the so-called core US inflation rate rose 0.2 percent in February 2011, the same rate of increase as in January.

US inflation surged 2.1 percent over the past 12 months, up from 1.6% in the year to January. The core US inflation rate rose 1.1 percent from February 2010 against the prior 12-month pick-up of 1.0 percent. The core reading still remains below the Federal Reserves preferred range between 1.6 and 2.0 percent, although by a lesser degree according to some analysts.

"There are signs here the pace of growth has picked up and if the Fed was worried about inflation being too slow, they can forget about it," Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh, was quoted on Reuters. "What the Fed needs to worry about is inflation expectations because they are much more fickle."

Consumer prices as reported by the US Labor Department follow:

January 2011 Consumer Prices – Gains (%)

Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb 12
Month
All items 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.4 0.5 2.1
  Food 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.6 2.3
    Food at home .0 0.3 .0 0.3 0.1 0.7 0.8 2.8
    Food away from home 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 1.6
  Energy 2.3 0.7 2.6 0.2 4.6 2.1 3.4 11.0
    Energy commodities 3.8 1.8 4.4 0.8 7.5 4.0 4.8 19.3
      Gasoline (all types) 3.9 1.6 4.6 0.7 8.5 3.5 4.7 19.2
      Fuel oil 0.9 0.8 4.7 4.2 4.9 6.8 5.8 27.1
    Energy services 0.4 -0.8 0.2 -0.7 0.5 -0.6 1.1 0.2
      Electricity 0.2 -0.3 0.4 0.9 0.3 -0.5 0.4 2.2
      Utility (piped) gas service 1.1 -2.3 -0.4 -5.7 1.4 -1.2 3.4 -5.9
  All items less food, energy .0 .0 .0 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 1.1
    Comm. less food, energy 0.1 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1 .0 0.2 0.2 .0
      New vehicles 0.3 0.1 -0.2 -0.4 .0 -0.1 1.0 0.9
      Used cars and trucks 0.7 -0.7 -0.9 -0.5 -0.1 -0.3 0.1 1.9
      Apparel -0.1 -0.6 -0.3 0.2 0.1 1.0 -0.9 -0.4
      Medical care 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.7 2.7
    Services less energy .0 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.2 1.5
      Shelter .0 .0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.8
      Transportation 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.2 0.6 0.5 3.5
      Medical care 0.2 0.8 0.2 0.1 0.3 -0.1 0.4 3.0

 

The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index for March 2011 is scheduled for release on April 15, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. (ET). The CPI data is used as the core engine for the US Inflation Calculator.

3 thoughts on “US Inflation Surges, Consumer Prices Up 0.5% in February 2011”

  1. This is CPI spin. I got a 10# bag of sugar in January that was about $5.50 and it’s gone up over a dollar. Food prices have skyrocketed. And don’t tell me people will “substitute” something else!!!

  2. rusuruwant2know: “This is CPI spin… Food prices have skyrocketed.”

    How is it CPI spin? Quote from article: “…soaring food and energy costs easily led consumer prices.”

    Same thing you said.

  3. Yes, I agree. My opinion is that the CPI reported is spin.
    Regarding subsituting, I would like to see rich people substitute a cubic zirconium for a diamond and tell me it’s the same thing. What is the substitute for peanut butter than has gone up 50 percent in the past year? What is the substitute for sugar? What is the substitute for good quality margarine? The special sale price of $1.50 last year is now $2.50. This is not 3 percent.
    Peanut butter and cereal have almost doubled in price per ounce compared to the special sales that used to be offered and are no longer offered. Bread, butter, cheese, pet food and more have sky rocketed in price.
    My health insurance covers less and my out of pocket expenses have gone up much more than 3 percent.
    In my opinion, we are in a depression. Many well educated people have had to accept jobs paying $10 to $15 per hour. This is no longer a livable wage compared to the cost of essentials.

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