Consumer Prices Rise for First Time in Three Months

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Consumer prices rose last month for the first time since July, an inflation signal that could help push the Federal Reserve to increase a key interest rate.

The consumer price index increased 0.2 percent in October after a 0.2 percent decline the previous month, the Labor Department said. The rise, driven by higher food and energy prices, was in line with economists’ expectations.

So-called core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, also rose 0.2 percent, matching September’s increase. Higher prices for housing and medical care, as well as for recreation, airline fares, alcohol and tobacco, pushed up core prices, the Labor Department said.

For the year ended Oct. 30, overall prices were up 0.2 percent and core prices were up 1.9 percent. It was the second straight month that annual core prices were near the Fed’s target of 2 percent, although the central bank uses a different inflation measure that has been running lower.

The signs of growing inflation following the recent upbeat jobs report could lead Fed policymakers to raise their benchmark short-term interest rate next month. The rate has been near zero since late 2008.

Fed Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen has said a rate hike at the central bank’s December meeting is possible if the economy continues to improve.

Energy prices, which declined in August and September, were up 0.3 percent last month, the Labor Department said.

Food prices were up 0.1 percent in October, but that was down from a 0.4 percent increase the previous month.