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Economy in Brief

Consumer Prices Rose As Expected
by Tom Moeller February 23, 2005

Consumer Prices (CPI-U) rose a modest 0.1% in January following an upwardly revised no change the month earlier. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.2% increase for last month.

Prices less food & energy rose the same 0.2% in January as during the prior three months and the gain matched expectations

"Core" commodities prices posted a 0.3% increase, one of the larger increases of the last three years, led by a 1.9% (4.4% y/y) spurt in tobacco prices and a 0.7% (1.3% y/y) gain in new vehicle prices. Apparel prices rose 0.3% (+0.2% y/y) and furniture prices rose 0.1% (0.6% y/y). Personal computer prices rose 0.7% (NSA, -13.6% y/y).

Services prices less energy rose 0.2% for the fourth consecutive month. Shelter prices rose a stable 0.2% (2.7% y/y), medical care services inflation also was stable at a firm 0.4% (5.0% y/y) but public transportation prices fell for the second consecutive month (-1.0% y/y). School tuition rose 0.3% (6.5% y/y).

Energy prices fell for the second consecutive month, pulled lower by a 2.1% (+14.3% y/y) decline in gasoline prices. In February gasoline prices are 4.0% higher than in January and have reversed about half of the decline since November. Fuel oil prices fell 4.9% last month (+20.9% y/y) and natural gas & electricity prices rose 0.1% (+5.9% y/y).

Food prices rose 0.1%, the gain held back by a 4.6% drop (+4.6% y/y) in fruit & vegetable prices.

The chained CPI, which adjusts for shifts in the mix of consumer purchases, rose 0.2% and offset the revised 0.2% December decline. Core chain prices rose for the first time since October.

Real Effects of Inflation Through the Redistribution of Nominal Wealth from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis can be found here.

Consumer Price Index Jan Dec Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Total  0.1% 0.0% 2.9% 2.7% 2.3% 1.6%
 Total less Food & Energy 0.2% 0.2% 2.2% 1.8% 1.5% 2.3%
  Goods less Food & Energy 0.3% 0.0% 0.9% -0.9% -2.0% -1.1%
  Services less Energy 0.2% 0.2% 2.8% 2.8% 2.9% 3.8%
 Energy -1.1% -1.3% 10.5% 10.9% 12.2% -5.9%
 Food 0.1% 0.0% 2.8% 3.4% 2.1% 1.8%
             
Chained CPI: Total (NSA) 0.2% -0.2% 2.8% 2.2% 1.9% 1.3%
 Total less Food & Energy 0.2% -0.1% 2.1% 1.4% 1.1% 1.9%
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