Consumer Prices in U.S. Rose 0.4% in November

The cost of living in the U.S. accelerated in November from a month earlier, led by higher prices for energy and medical care.

The 0.4 percent increase in the consumer-price index followed a 0.3 percent gain in October, figures from the Labor Department showed. Excluding food and energy costs, the so-called core index was unexpectedly unchanged.

Energy costs have retreated so far this month, and comments from companies such as Best Buy Co. indicate unemployment close to a 26-year high is prompting retailers to discount their merchandise. Federal Reserve policy makers have said they expect subdued” inflation in coming months, allowing them to keep interest rates low.

Compared with a year earlier, consumer prices were up 1.8 percent. Core prices rose 1.7 percent from November 2008, matching the year-over-year gain in October.

Energy costs increased 4.1 percent in November, the most since August. Gasoline prices jumped 6.4 percent, accounting for more than 75 percent of the rise in total energy costs. Fuel oil costs rose 9 percent, the most since November 2007.

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 November averaged $2.65 a gallon, compared with $2.56 a month earlier, according to AAA. Prices for regular-grade gasoline at the pump have averaged $2.63 so far this month.

Food costs, which account for about 15 percent of the CPI, increased 0.1 percent in November.

Rents, which make up almost 40 percent of the core CPI, fell. Owners-equivalent rent, one of the categories used to track rental prices, decreased 0.1 percent after no change. In September, the measure also dropped 0.1 percent, the first decline since 1992.

The CPI is the broadest of the three monthly price gauges from the Labor Department because it includes goods and services.

Consumer Prices in U.S. Rose 0.4% in November, Bloomberg
12/16/2009 10:15:33 AM