March consumer prices drop 0.1%, annual inflation tumbles 0.4%

Pushed down by declining energy prices, U.S. consumer prices dropped in March, and the annual inflation rate dipped for the first time since 1955, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched gauge for inflation, fell 0.1% after increasing 0.4% in February. The decline was unexpected with many analysts forecasting an increase around 0.1%. On an annual basis, inflation was down 0.4%, marking the first decline since August 1955.

While deflation fears were eased with rising prices revealed in the CPI data for February, the latest numbers rekindle notice.

"We’re in a very deep global recession that’s going to hold prices down," Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, was quoted on Bloomberg. "Deflation is still something that’s a risk, though I don’t think we’ll get into a deflationary spiral."

However, during the last several weeks an outlook for potential stinging inflation has been more of the economic buzz. Continue reading March consumer prices drop 0.1%, annual inflation tumbles 0.4%

Inflation calculator, inflation rates update – 4/15

U.S. consumer prices dropped unexpectedly in March and marked the first annual drop since 1955, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided on Wednesday, April 15.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) data has the annual inflation rate at -0.4% compared to the February rate of 0.2%. On a monthly basis, consumer prices fell 0.1 percent, after increasing 0.4 percent in February.

The Inflation Calculator is updated with the newest government information, as are the following pages:

Consumer Price Index Data from 1913 to 2009

Current Inflation Rates: 1999-2009

Historical Inflation Rates: 1914-2009

Annual Averages for Rate of Inflation

For an in depth look at March consumer prices, read Consumer prices drop 0.1%.


Cheap energy pushes producer prices down 1.2%

U.S. Producer prices fell 1.2% in March as lower energy prices drove down costs more than expected, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) measures prices at the factory door and inflation pressures before they reach the consumer. In a reversal after two months of gains, the latest PPI figures again raise notes of deflationary concern for some economists. However, they are outweighed by the Fed’s mission to spur economic activity.

"Clearly, deflation is a concern right now, though the biggest worry is to restore growth," Anika Khan, an economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina, was quoted on Bloomberg. With inflation contained, "it gives the Fed more room to try to restore growth."

Deflation is a persistent decrease in general prices, or the opposite of inflation. Falling prices may seem like good news for consumers, but only to a certain extent. If prices mark sustained deflationary levels that strike below the cost to produce goods and services, further economic turmoil can ensue with production cuts, payroll reductions and deepening unemployment. Continue reading Cheap energy pushes producer prices down 1.2%