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Energy, education costs send US consumer prices higher

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by Elaine Frei

Consumer prices in the United States were up by 0.7 percent in January, higher than the expected gain of 0.5 percent and after a decline of 0.1 percent in December. High energy prices were cited as the main force pushing the CPI up. Energy prices grew by 5 percent in January, led by a 6.4 percent increase in the price of gasoline. Other categories with price gains in the month included shelter and medical expenses, each rising by 0.1 percent. Tuition costs was one of the most rapidly rising sectors, with a gain of 0.7 percent. Food prices rose by 0.5 percent.

The 0.7 percent rise in the CPI in January works out to a rise over the year of 4 percent, outpacing the increase in wages to hourly workers. Real average hourly wages have fallen 0.7 percent over the year.

The good news was that core inflation, excluding food and energy prices, was only up 0.2 percent in January, or 2.1 percent year on year, and analysts said that in the big picture inflation remains in control and that the figures should mean that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again in May.

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News posted: February 22, 2006

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