Consumer prices in U.S. fell more than forecast in November

Drug Costs

The core measure was restrained by a 0.1 percent gain in medical care, that reflected a record drop in drug costs. In addition, clothing and used-car prices fell.

Falling energy costs, including cheaper gasoline, are keeping inflation in check. Energy costs decreased 4.1 percent in November, the biggest drop since May. Gasoline plunged 7.4 percent, the largest decrease since December 2008.

Fuel costs continue to fall this month. A gallon of regular fuel at the pump dropped to $3.29 on Dec. 13 on average, the lowest since January and down from a peak of $3.87 on Sept. 13, according to AAA, the biggest U.S. auto group.

Restrained fuel costs may help Americans’ recover some of the buying power they’ve lost this year as salaries stagnated. Hourly wages adjusted for inflation increased 0.5 percent on average in November. The biggest gain since December 2008, after a 0.2 percent decrease the prior month, a separate Labor Department report today showed. Over the past 12 months, real hourly pay was little changed.

Seeking Sales

More shoppers are seeking out sales this season, said Karen Boone, chief financial officer at Restoration Hardware Inc., based in Corte Madera, California.

“Although we had the same number of company and store-wide promotions during the quarter, we had higher sales during those promotional events relative to the same period last year,” Boone said on a Dec. 12 earnings call.

The CPI is the broadest of three monthly price measures from the Labor Department because it includes goods and services. About 60 percent of the CPI covers prices consumers pay for services ranging from medical visits to airline fares and movie tickets.

Wholesale prices in the U.S. fell more than forecast in November, the Labor Department reported yesterday. The decline reflected the biggest drop in the cost of energy since March 2009.

Import prices also dropped in November, the first decline in four months, on cheaper crude oil and business equipment.

Bloomberg News

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