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CPI Inches Higher

Both the overall consumer price index and the core index rose 0.2% in January, which was roughly in line with expectations. Note that the data incorporate new seasonal factors and expenditure weights.

As expected, energy provided the biggest boost with a gain of 0.9%. Gasoline prices revealed a modest 1.9% rebound following the hefty 27% drop seen in the fourth quarter, while the other energy components were mixed. Food prices rose 0.3%, due largely to a 3.3% jump in the price of fruits and vegetables. As for the core, the strength was found in the usual suspects with medical care costs rising 0.5% and shelter rising 0.3%. But, declines in the price of new vehicles (-0.6%), used vehicles (-0.4%), and apparel (-0.7%) helped to offset strength.

Overall, the data supports the view that inflation should not be a concern for policymakers over the near term. Depressed commodity prices, over-capacity, and the strong level of the dollar all bode well for inflation trends in the months ahead. While service costs could continue to put some upward pressure on the CPI relative to goods prices, the overall trend should still be favorable. From Standard & Poor's Global Markets

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