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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Price Index Firms
by Tom Moeller  April 15, 2014

Consumer prices increased 0.2% (1.5% y/y) during March following two months of 0.1% uptick. Most price categories firmed. The latest increase outpaced consensus expectations for a 0.1% rise in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Consumer prices excluding food and energy also improved 0.2% after three straight 0.1% increases. The rise beat consensus expectations for a 0.1% gain.

Food prices jumped another 0.4% (1.7% y/y), the largest rise since September 2011. Egg prices strengthened 4.4% (9.9% y/y) while meat prices surged 1.4% (5.2% y/y). Cereal prices rose 1.3% (1.0% y/y), dairy costs increased 1.0% (2.3% y/y) and fruit & vegetable prices gained 0.9% (0.7% y/y). The cost of eating out rose a steady 0.3% (2.3 y/y). Working the other way, seafood prices declined 0.7% (+5.9% y/y), bakery product prices fell 0.2% (0.2% y/y) and nonalcoholic beverage prices also were off 0.2% (-1.8% y/y).

Core services prices firmed 0.3% (2.3% y/y), the quickest increase since November. Shelter costs (32% of the CPI) gained 0.3% (2.7% y/y), also the strongest increase since November, as owners equivalent rent of primary residences rose 0.3% (2.6% y/y). Medical care services prices improved 0.3% (2.4% y/y), the strongest increase in six months. Public transportation prices increased a moderate 0.3% (-2.5% y/y) and recreation service prices ticked up a steady 0.1% (2.0% y/y). Transportation services prices gained 0.2% (1.4% y/y).

Consumer prices for goods less food and energy were unchanged (-0.4% y/y) after declining slightly since early-2012. Firming were apparel prices by 0.3% (0.4% y/y) after five declines in the last six months. Also, furniture & bedding prices were unchanged (-3.3% y/y) following a 1.1% drop.  Continuing weak, appliance prices slipped 0.1% (-3.3% y/y) and new car & truck prices were unchanged (0.2% y/y). Recreation goods prices fell 0.3% (-2.4% y/y) and medical care commodity prices declined 0.3% (+1.3% y/y) after two months of strength.

To the downside, energy prices slipped 0.1% (+0.6 y/y). Fuel oil prices were off 2.9% (+2.1 y/y) and gasoline prices again fell 1.7% (-4.7% y/y). Strengthening were natural gas prices by 7.5% (16.4% y/y) and electricity prices by 1.1% (5.3% y/y).

The consumer price data is available in Haver's USECON database while detailed figures can be found in CPIDATA. The expectations figure is from Action Economics and is found in the AS1REPNA database.

Consumer Price Index (%) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
Total 0.2 0.1 0.1 1.5 1.5 2.1 3.2
Total less Food & Energy 0.2 0.1 0.1 1.6 1.8 2.1 1.7
  Goods less Food & Energy 0.0 -0.1 -0.1 -0.4 -0.0 1.3 1.3
  Services less Energy 0.3 0.2 0.2 2.3 2.4 2.4 1.8
 Food 0.4 0.4 0.1 1.7 1.4 2.6 3.7
 Energy -0.1 -0.5 0.6 0.6 -0.7 0.9 15.2
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