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November CPI Falls 0.3%; Core Rate Rises 0.1%

WASHINGTON — The U.S. November consumer price report was largely as expected, though prices were a bit tamer than most estimates.

November CPI fell 0.3% and core was up 0.1% for a 1.8% gain overall and a 1.9% increase in the core over the year. The unrounded gain in the core CPI was up 0.1125%.

Food was up 0.2% as dairy and nonalcoholic beverage costs surged.

Energy prices fell 4.1%, largely a result of gasoline posting a decline of 7.4%, its biggest drop since December 2008. Electric and natural gas prices rose. Energy prices overall were down 4.6% before adjustment and gas prices were off 7.7%.

Some of the decline reflects lower oil prices, and some might be due to lessened demand in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Core prices were held down by a 0.6% drop in apparel after two months of gains (women's & infants' clothing fell), and by a 0.5% decline in used cars, their fifth drop. Tobacco prices were unchanged.

These were offset by a 0.2% gain for new cars (a 0.5% rise before adjustment) and a 0.1% increase for both medical care and recreation. Owners' equivalent rent was up 0.2%.

Overall, the CPI numbers are showing trends in line with expectations -- of modest inflation and offsetting moves in most core components. Clearly inflation remains below the magic 2% threshold that is often mentioned as price stability.

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