Consumer prices in the United States increased by the same amount in February as in January while annual inflation climbed slower, the latest government figures show. Higher food prices contributed the most to gains while lower energy costs were offsetting.
The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, rose 0.1% in February, the US Labor Department reported Tuesday, March 18, 2014. The mark came as no surprise, matching economists’ expectations according to Reuters and MarketWatch.
Food prices increased 0.4% last month, which the Labor Department noted as the biggest increase in two and a half years (since September 2011) and added that gains happened in four of six grocery store categories it monitors.
On a bit of a bright spot, gas prices actually declined 1.7% after falling 1% in the prior month. Electricity prices fell by 0.2% after jumping 1.8%. Not all energy categories declined, however. The cost of natural gas surged 3.6% and the price of fuel oil soared 4.1%.
Stripping out food and energy prices, the so-called core inflation rate advanced 0.1% for a third month in a row.
12-Month Change in Consumer Prices
In the February 2013 to February 2014 period, the inflation rate rose 1.1% versus the firmer 1.6% advance in January.
As for core consumer prices in the past 12 months, they rose 1.6% for a second consecutive month. The Federal Reserve has a target annual inflation rate of 2%, pegging that level as optimal for economic improvement under current conditions.
"The underlying trend shows there is not a lot of inflation. The Fed has to acknowledge that the transitory factors are more entrenched since inflation has run below their target for about two years," said Michael Hanson, a senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.
The following table offers major consumer prices by category and their month-over-month changes. The final column offers year-over year changes. The prices for these items are gathered and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) each month.
US Inflation: August 2013 – February 2014 Consumer Prices (Changes)
|Aug 2013||Sept 2013||Oct 2013||Nov 2013||Dec 2013||Jan 2014||Feb 2014||12 Month|
|Food at home||0.1||.0||.0||.0||.0||0.1||0.5||0.9|
|Food away from home||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.3||0.1||0.1||0.3||2.2|
|Gasoline (all types)||-0.5||-0.2||-1.6||-0.8||2.6||-1.0||-1.7||-8.1|
|Utility (piped) gas service||-1.8||1.6||-0.5||-1.5||-1.0||3.6||3.6||8.3|
|All items less food, energy||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.1||1.6|
|Commodities less food, energy||.0||-0.1||-0.1||.0||.0||-0.1||-0.1||-0.4|
|Used cars and trucks||-0.1||0.3||0.4||0.3||.0||-0.5||-0.1||0.6|
|Services less energy||0.2||0.2||0.2||0.3||0.1||0.2||0.2||2.2|
Here is the summarized report on the Consumer Price Index as issued by the Labor Department’s BLS on Tuesday, March 18, 2014:
Summary of Consumer Prices for February 2014
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.1% before seasonal adjustment.
An increase in the food index accounted for more than half of the all items increase in February. The food index rose 0.4% in February, driven by a 0.5% increase in the index for food at home, with four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increasing. The energy index declined, with a decrease in the gasoline index more than offsetting sharp increases in the fuel oil and natural gas indexes.
The index for all items less food and energy also rose 0.1% in February. An increase of 0.2% in the shelter index was the major contributor to the rise, but the indexes for medical care, airline fares, personal care, recreation, and new vehicles also increased. In contrast, the indexes for household furnishings and operations, apparel, used cars and trucks, and tobacco all declined in February.
The all items index increased 1.1% over the last 12 months; this compares to increases of 1.5% in December and 1.6% in January. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.6% over the last 12 months. The energy index declined 2.5% over the same period, while the food index has increased 1.4%.
The food index rose 0.4% in February, its largest increase since September 2011. The food at home index increased 0.5% as four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 1.2% while the indexes for dairy and related products and other food at home saw more modest increases of 0.7% and 0.2%, respectively. The index for fruits and vegetables rose 1.1% after five consecutive declines, though fresh vegetables declined 0.2%. The index for cereals and bakery products was down 0.4%, and the index for nonalcoholic beverages declined 0.3%. The food index has risen 1.4% over the past year, with the food at home index up 0.9% and the index for food away from home up 2.2%. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs has risen 4.0% over the last 12 months, compared to more modest increases for dairy and related products, cereals and bakery products, and other food at home. The index for fruits and vegetables and the index for nonalcoholic beverages both declined over the same period.
The energy index fell 0.5% in February as a decline in the gasoline index offset sharp increases in the indexes for fuel oil and natural gas. The indexes for fuel oil and natural gas rose 4.1% and 3.6%, respectively, while the gasoline index was down 1.7% (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 1.1% in February). The electricity index declined 0.2% after an unusually large increase in January. Over the last 12 months, the energy index has fallen 2.5%, due to an 8.1% decline in the gasoline index. The three remaining major energy indexes increased, with natural gas posting the highest increase at 8.3%.
All items less food and energy
The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1% in February. The shelter index rose 0.2%, with the indexes for rent and owners’ equivalent rent both rising 0.2%, and the index for lodging away from home advancing 0.6%.
The medical care index increased 0.3% in February, the same as January. The index for medical care commodities was up 0.6% while the index for medical care services increased 0.2%. The index for airline fares rose 1.3% in February. The index for personal care was up 0.2%. The recreation index was up 0.1%.
The index for new vehicles rose 0.1%. Meanwhile, the index for household furnishings and operations was down 0.4%. The apparel index dropped 0.3% (the same as January). The index for used cars and trucks fell 0.1%. The alcohol and tobacco indexes decreased 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively.
The index for all items less food and energy has risen 1.6% over the last 12 months. The shelter index has risen 2.6% over the last 12 months, with the rent index up 2.8% and the index for owners’ equivalent rent up 2.5%. The medical care index has risen 2.3 %. The index for household furnishings and operations declined 1.6 % and the index for airline fares has fallen 3.8% over the last year.
Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.1 % over the last 12 months to an index level of 234.781 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.4% prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 1.0% over the last 12 months to an index level of 230.871 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.4% prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 1.0% over the last 12 months. For the month, the index rose 0.4% on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for the post-2012 period are subject to revision.
Next CPI Release
The Consumer Price Index for March 2014 is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT). View report release dates.