The consumer price index fell for the second consecutive month due to a large decrease in the price of gasoline. On a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis the consumer price index fell 0.4%. Over the past twelve months, prices on expenditures made by urban consumers increased just 0.8% before seasonal adjustments. The falling price of gasoline is positive for consumers in the short-term as this frees up income to spend on other goods and services.
Falling gasoline prices also pushed down the energy price index which fell for the sixth consecutive month. The gasoline index, a component of the energy price index, fell on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis 9.4% and over the past twelve months is down 21%. However, not all components of the energy index fell. The electricity index increased 0.8% for the month and the natural gas index increased 1.5% for the month.
The price of food increased for the month and has shown steady growth over the year. The food index increased 0.3% for the month and over the past twelve months increased 3.4% before seasonal adjustments. After declining in November, the index for dairy saw an increase of 0.6% on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 0.3% for the month.
Core CPI, which excludes the more volatile food and energy prices, was unchanged for the month. Over the past twelve months core CPI increased 1.6% before seasonal adjustments.
The shelter index rose 0.2% month-over-month in December after increasing 0.3% month-over-month in November. Over the past twelve months, the shelter index increased 2.9% before seasonal adjustments.
Because shelter costs represent a large share of the average consumer’s expenditures, a 0.2% month-over-month increase is worth exploring further. Although the increase in the shelter index partly reflects increases in rental prices, the BLS measure does not isolate the change in rental prices from the changes in the overall price index. NAHB constructs a real rent price index to isolate the change in rental prices. The NAHB constructed measure indicates whether inflation in rents is faster or slower than general inflation and provides some insight into the supply and demand conditions for rental housing, after controlling for overall inflation.
The NAHB constructed real rent index increased 0.2% in December month-over-month. Over the past year, growth in real rental prices outpaced growth in the CPI. Real rental prices rose by 1.7% from December 2013.