The consumer price index fell for the third straight month as the price of gasoline continued its sharp decline. The prices on expenditures made by urban consumers decreased 0.1% over the past twelve months before seasonal adjustments. According to the latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the consumer price index decreased 0.7% on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis.
The energy price index fell 9.7% in January for seventh straight month-over-month decline. This was the largest month-over-month drop during that period. The driving force behind falling consumer prices and the energy index is the sharp drop in gasoline prices. The gasoline index, a component of the energy price index, fell 18.7% for the month and is down 35.4% for the year. The index for natural gas also fell for the month; dropping 3.4% on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis.
The food index was unchanged in January on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis. Over the past twelve months, however, the food index increased 3.2% before seasonal adjustments. The food at home index increased 3.3% over the last twelve month with a large increase in the meats, poultry, fish, and eggs group of 8.7% for the year.
Core CPI, which excludes the more volatile food and energy prices, increased 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis. Over the past twelve months core CPI increased 1.6% before seasonal adjustments.
The shelter index rose 0.3% month-over-month in January after increasing 0.2% month-over-month in December. Over the past twelve months, the shelter index increased 2.9% before seasonal adjustments.
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 price index by deflating the price index for rent by the index for overall inflation. This measure indicates whether inflation in rents is faster or slower than general inflation and provides insight into the supply and demand conditions for rental housing, after controlling for overall inflation. When rents are rising faster (slower) than general inflation the real rent index rises (declines).
The growth in real rental prices continues to outpace growth in the CPI. The NAHB constructed real rent index increased 0.1% in January month-over-month. Real rental prices rose by 1.7% from one year ago.