The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices were unchanged in January. Energy prices fell 2.8 percent for the month, but core inflation – which exclude food and energy prices – picked up, rising 0.3 percent. Food prices were flat. On the energy front, gasoline prices were off 4.8 percent, declining sharply for the second straight month. Along those lines, the average price of regular conventional gasoline decreased from decreased from $1.933 at the end of December to $1.752 a gallon at the end of January, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Gasoline prices have continued to fall since then, averaging $1.638 per gallon on February 15, its lowest level since December 29, 2008. Meanwhile, higher prices for fruits and vegetables were offset by reduced costs in other categories.
Core consumer prices accelerated to their fastest monthly pace since August 2011, boosted by strong gains for apparel, medical care, new vehicles, shelter expenses and transportation services. On a year-over-year basis, core inflation was 2.2 percent, up from 1.8 percent six months ago. This was the highest year-over-year level for core inflation since June 2012. Yet, overall pricing pressures continue to remain in control for now, providing the Federal Reserve some flexibility even as it decides when to raise short-term interest rates once more.