The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI) was unchanged on a seasonally adjusted basis in November. Further easing in energy prices offset a slight increase in the food index and a modest gain in the core index (all items less food and energy). On a year-over-year basis the pace of growth remains elevated, with the all items index up 3.4% (NSA) relative to November 2010.Nonetheless, this represents a slight deceleration from readings of 3.9% in September and 3.5% in October.
The energy index declined for the second month, slipping 1.6% (SA) in November due primarily to gasoline prices contracting an additional 2.4%. The household energy index also fell last month (-0.4%), with a 4.4% decline in the natural gas index more than offsetting increases of 2.7% and 0.4% for fuel oil and electricity, respectively. Even with this recent easing, the energy index increased considerably over the past year — 12.4% higher than its year-ago level. The gasoline index has increased 19.7% year-over-year, while the household energy index has risen 3.1%, with fuel oil up 25.1%, electricity up 2.7%, but natural gas down 1.3%.
The food index continued to inch higher in November, up 0.1%, the same as in October. The index for food at home edged down 0.1%, but this was offset by a modest 0.3% increase in the index for food away from home. Most major grocery store food groupings registered moderate declines from the previous month, including fruit and vegetables (-0.6%), dairy (-0.3%), and meats, fish and eggs (-0.1%). Cereals and bakery products (+0.3%) was the only category to register an increase.
Core CPI continued to drift higher, up 0.2% in November. Gains in the shelter (+0.2%), medical care (+0.4%) and apparel indexes (+0.6%) accounted for most of the increase. The shelter index was pushed higher by a 0.2% increase in the rent index and 0.1% rise in the index for owners’ equivalent rent.
Core CPI registered its 13th consecutive monthly increase, but these gains have remained modest, leaving the index up a moderate 2.2% compared to November 2010. Similarly, the shelter index, with its 14th consecutive month-over-month increase, is up 1.8% on a year-over-year basis. The subcomponents owners’ equivalent rent and rent of primary residence have risen 1.7% and 2.4%, respectively, since November 2010.
In real terms, the index of rent of primary residences continued to advance, up 0.2% in November after a 0.5% rise in October. However, the recent gains have not yet offset the marked decline observed earlier in 2011, which has caused real rents to remain 1.0% lower than they were in November 2010.