Inflation stalled last month, thanks to gas prices


But rents continued to move higher

The overall inflation rate took a breather in October as falling gasoline prices offset other areas of the economy where prices continued to rise. The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) was unchanged last month after rising 0.4% in September.

That puts the inflation rate over the last 12 months at 3.2%, down from 3.7%  in September.

The price of gasoline plunged 5% in October after rising 2.1% in September. The price at the pump is 5.3% lower than October 2022. According to AAA, today’s national average price of regular gasoline is $3.35 a gallon. One year ago, it was $3.77.

The decrease in gas prices cushioned the blow from another increase in the cost of shelter, notably rent. The Shelter Index increased 0.3% last month, on top of a 0.6% rise in September. For the last 12 months, the cost of putting a roof over your head is up 6.7%, the second largest increase behind transportation services.

Food prices still rising

As we reported last week, the ConsumerAffairs Datasembly Shopping Cart Index, which tracks 25 common-purchased items, rose 1.4%. The CPI found the cost of all food categories rose 0.3% in October for a 3.3% annual inflation rate. However, the split between food purchased at grocery stores and food served in restaurants continued to widen.

The price of food consumed at home is up 2.1% over the last 12 months while the price of food consumed away from home is 5.4% higher.

Four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the month. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 0.7% in October as the index for beef increased 1.2% and the index for pork rose 1.3%. 

The other food-at-home index increased 0.3 percent over the month, as did the dairy and related products index. The index for cereals and bakery products rose 0.2% in October, after falling 0.4% in September.

The fruits and vegetables index was unchanged over the month, as it was in September.

Menu prices are rising even faster

The food away from home index rose 0.4% in October, as it did in September. The index for limited-service meals – think fast food – increased 0.5% and the index for full-service meals rose 0.3% over the month. 

Heading into the cold weather months there was good news for consumers heating their homes with oil. The price of heating oil decline by nearly a full percentage point in October and is 21% lower than a year ago.

The cost of a new car or truck dipped 0.1% last month, in spite of an auto workers strike that limited production. On a year-over-year basis, however, the price of a new car is almost 2% higher. Used car prices continued to fall last month and are now 7.1% cheaper than a year ago.

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