The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in December, rising for the fifth straight month. The increase in the latest release stemmed largely from higher energy costs, up 1.5 percent, with gasoline prices up 3.0 percent. Indeed, the average price of regular conventional gasoline was $2.25 per gallon on December 26, up from $2.08 on November 28, according to the Energy Information Administration. Over the past 12 months, energy prices have risen 5.4 percent. At the same time, food prices were unchanged for the sixth consecutive month, with a decline of 0.2 percent since December 2015. Overall, the consumer price index increased 2.1 percent year-over-year in October, up from 0.9 percent in July and the highest level since May 2014.
Core consumer prices were up 0.2 percent in December, mirroring the pace seen in November. There were higher prices for medical care, new and used vehicles, transportation services and shelter, but lower costs for apparel and household furnishings. Excluding food and energy costs, consumer prices have increased 2.2 percent over the past 12 months, which was the average for 2016. Even though core consumer price inflation has exceeded the Federal Reserve’s stated goal of 2 percent for 14 consecutive months, overall prices pressures remain modest and under control for now.