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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Price Inflation Continues to Be Tame
by Tom Moeller  March 11, 2020

The Consumer Price Index edged 0.1% (2.3% y/y) higher during February for the second consecutive month. These gains followed two months of 0.2% increase. Expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey were for no change in the index level. The CPI excluding food & energy rose an expected 0.2% (2.4% y/y) last month, the same as in January.

A 2.0% decline (+2.8% y/y) in energy prices held back the rise in the CPI, following a 0.7% drop. Gasoline prices declined 3.4% (+5.6% y/y) and fuel oil prices fell 8.5% (-5.9% y/y). Natural gas prices eased 0.9% (-2.0% y/y) while the cost of electricity eased 0.1% (+0.6% y/y).

Goods prices excluding food & energy strengthened 0.2% (-0.0% y/y), the first increase in six months. The gain was led by a 0.6% rise in education & communications goods (-5.2% y/y) prices. Apparel prices rose 0.4% (-0.9% y/y) as did the cost of used vehicles (-1.3% y/y) . New vehicle prices edged 0.1% higher (0.4% y/y). Furniture costs rose 0.1% (-0.2% y/y) while appliance prices were unchanged (-1.2% y/y). Medical care goods prices eased 0.6% (+1.8% y/y) for a second straight month and recreation goods prices slipped 0.1% (-0.4% y/y).

Services prices rose 0.2% (3.1% y/y). Medical care service prices improved 0.3% (5.3% y/y) for the third straight month. Shelter costs rose 0.3% (3.3% y/y) as the owners equivalent rent of primary residences gained 0.2% (3.3% y/y). Education & communication prices improved 0.1% (2.1% y/y). Recreation services prices declined 0.5% (+2.3% y/y).

Food prices rose 0.4% (1.8% y/y). Meat prices increased 0.3% (3.7% y/y), while dairy product prices strengthened 1.2% (3.6% y/y). Cereal & bakery product prices increased 0.5% (0.2% y/y) while fruit & vegetable prices held steady (-1.6% y/y). Egg prices declined 0.8% (-4.0% y/y) while nonalcoholic beverage prices rose 0.5% (0.4% y/y).

The Consumer Price Index data can be found in Haver's USECON database with additional detail in CPIDATA. The Action Economics survey figure is in the AS1REPNA database.

Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers (% chg) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total 0.1 0.1 0.2 2.3 1.8 2.4 2.1
Total less Food & Energy 0.2 0.2 0.1 2.4 2.2 2.1 1.8
  Goods less Food & Energy 0.2  -0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.2 -0.2 -0.7
  Services less Energy 0.2 0.3 0.2 3.1 2.8 2.9 2.7
 Food 0.4 0.2 0.2 1.8 1.9 1.4 0.9
 Energy -2.0 -0.7 1.6 2.8 -2.1 7.5 7.9
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