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Cheaper gas leads to first drop in consumer prices in six months

December 14, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera
  • Prices are posted at a gas station in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., on Tuesday. Gas prices are finally on the decline in South Jersey, as they have been elsewhere in the country, helping push down the consumer price index in November.
Prices are posted at a gas station in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., on Tuesday.… (Danny Drake / Press of Atlantic…)

WASHINGTON -- Cheaper gasoline led to the first drop in consumer prices in six months in November, signaling that inflation remains in check as the Federal Reserve continues its stimulus attempts.

The consumer price index fell 0.3% last month from October, the Labor Department said Friday, slightly beating analyst expectations.

The decline was driven by a 7.4% plunge in the government's gasoline price index.

Consumer prices hadn't fallen since May. And after two flat months in June and July, they had been rising as gas prices increased through the late summer and fall.

For the 12 months ending in November, consumer prices have risen 1.8%. The increase is below the Fed's 2% annual inflation target.

"Inflation is down due to gasoline, and is likely to fall again in next month’s report for the same reason," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York. 

"The economy is finishing the year on a strong note, and that is something to give thanks for," he said.

The less volatile core consumer price index, which excludes energy and food prices, was up 0.1% in November from the previous month and up 1.9% for the preceding 12 months.

Food prices rose 0.2% last month from October as consumers continued to feel the effects of the summer's Midwest drought.

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Industrial production jumped last month, making up for Sandy losses

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