US annual inflation pace accelerates in January

People shop at Macy’s Department store in New York City, US, March 11, 2019. — Reuters pic
People shop at Macy’s Department store in New York City, US, March 11, 2019. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Feb 13 — Surging fuel and medical costs ramped up the annual inflation rate Americans faced in January to its highest in more than a year, the government reported today.

Consumers saw tepid price increases in the first month of the year compared to December, a rise of just 0.1 per cent, seasonally adjusted, according to the Labor Department’s monthly report.

But for the latest 12 months, the Consumer Price Index jumped to 2.5 per cent, without seasonal adjustment, the fastest gain since October 2018 and the second consecutive month that record was broken.

The double-digit surge in fuel prices over the past 12 months was a major driver, but medical costs gained 5.1 per cent in the year ended in January, while housing rose 3.3 per cent, the report said.

However, last month energy prices fell 1.6 per cent from December as the new coronavirus outbreak in China took a bite out of the world’s second largest economy, dampening demand for energy and trimming global oil prices.

When volatile food and fuel categories are excluded, “core” CPI rose 0.2 per cent compared to December, and 2.3 per cent from January 2019.

Even with the gain in CPI for the year, the mystery of long-absent price pressures remains, and inflation has barely made it beyond the Federal Reserve’s two per cent goal, even with more than a decade of economic growth and a strong job market that pushed the unemployment rate to a 50-year low. — AFP

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