Consumer Prices in U.S. Increased 0.3%

The cost of living in the U.S. rose more than forecast in October as Americans paid more for fuel, while so-called core prices held at a pace that supports the Federal Reserve’s forecast for tame inflation.

The 0.3 percent rise in the consumer-price index followed a 0.2 percent increase in September, figures from the Labor Department showed. Excluding food and energy costs, the core index rose 0.2 percent for a second month.

Unemployment at a 26-year high of 10.2 percent and wages that were down 5.2 percent in September from a year earlier are giving companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. little room to raise prices. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Nov. 16 that the economic headwinds” will limit the recovery, allowing interest rates to stay low for an extended period.”

Compared with a year earlier, consumer prices were down 0.2 percent. Core prices rose 1.7 percent from October 2008 after a 1.5 percent year-over-year gain in September.

Energy costs increased 1.5 percent in October, led by fuel oil and gasoline.

The year-over-year declines in the consumer price index are getting smaller as crude oil prices increase from an almost five-year low in December 2008.

Gasoline prices in October averaged $2.56 a gallon in October, compared with $2.55 a month earlier, according to AAA.

Food prices, which account for 14.6 percent of the CPI, increased 0.1 percent in October, reflecting higher dairy costs. Prices for meats and fruits and vegetables declined during the month.

Owners-equivalent rent, one of the categories used to track rental prices, was unchanged. In September, the measure dropped 0.1 percent, the first decline since 1992.

Costs of medical care increased 0.2 percent in October and are up 3.5 percent from the same month last year. Airline fares rose 1.7 percent last month.

The CPI is the broadest of the three monthly price gauges from the Labor Department because it includes goods and services. A report yesterday showed wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent. The cost of imported goods rose 0.7 percent, the government said last week.

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

Consumer Prices in U.S. Increased 0.3%, Bloomberg
11/18/2009 9:20:34 AM