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Consumer Prices Rise

The consumer price index for January rose 0.5%, vs. December's 0.2% increase, higher than expected. The core CPI (excludes food and energy) was up 0.2%, vs. December's 0.1% rise, also higher than expected.

The increase came predominantly from a jump in energy-related items, which were up 4.7%. Food and health care also contributed to the year-over-year rise, but were flat month to month.

Though the headline readings came in a touch higher than expected, the short-term consumer price trends are mostly still very cool. While the core CPI is up 1.1% on the year, tying a multi-year low, it is rising at just a 0.8% annual pace over the past three months. That is the wrong direction for inflation worriers like Bernanke.

Apparel prices, down 1.9% year-over-year, are falling at a 4.5% pace over the last three months. Home owners equivalent rent is up 0.1% on the month, 1.9% on the year, but just 1.6% annualized over the last three months.

There are exceptions among the usual suspects. Medical care is up 3.8% on the year, and 4.2% annualized over the last three months. Education is up 1.3% year-over-year, and 1.8% over three months. Meanwhile, personal computer prices are falling at a 7.1% pace over three months, vs 16.9% year-over-year. From Standard & Poor's MarketScope and Informa Global Markets

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