U.S. Inflation Unchanged in July

The cost of living in the U.S. was unchanged in July, and dropped by the most since 1950 from a year ago, as the recession sapped companies’ pricing power.

The flat reading followed a 0.7 percent increase in June, data from the Labor Department showed in Washington. Excluding food and energy costs, the so-called core index rose 0.1 percent, also as anticipated.

Today’s figures indicate no sign that the Federal Reserve’s record $1 trillion of injections into the banking system have passed through to faster inflation. Retailers including Nordstrom Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. have used discounts to lure consumers on tight budgets in the aftermath of job losses and home-price declines.

Compared with a year earlier, prices were down 2.1 percent, the biggest 12-month decrease since 1950.

The core index was projected to rise 0.1 percent, according to the survey median. The measure increased 1.5 percent from a year earlier, the least since February 2004.

Energy costs decreased 0.4 percent in July. Gasoline prices dropped 0.8 percent.

Gasoline is on the rise this month, according to figures from AAA, with regular pump prices ending Aug. 13 at $2.65 a gallon, compared with an average of $2.53 in July.

Food prices, which account for about one-seventh of the CPI, dropped 0.3 percent in July, the biggest decrease since May 2002. All major categories, including meats, dairy products and fruits and vegetables, declined.

Shelter costs, which include rents and hotel fares, dropped 0.2 percent last month, also the worst performance since 1982. Owners-equivalent rent, one of the categories used to track rental prices, was unchanged.

New vehicle prices climbed 0.5 percent. Sales at automobile dealerships and parts stores climbed 2.4 percent in July, the most since January, according to a Commerce Department report yesterday.

The CPI is the broadest of the three monthly price gauges from the Labor Department because it includes goods and services. The department said that prices of goods imported into the U.S. fell in July for the first time in six months as the cost of commodities such as chemicals, natural gas and petroleum decreased. The 0.7 percent decline in the import price index was larger than forecast.

Almost 60 percent of the CPI covers prices consumers pay for services ranging from medical visits to airline fares and movie tickets.

U.S.  Inflation Unchanged in July

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
8/14/2009 9:42:04 AM