The FINANCIAL -- U. S. consumer prices rose in June, pushing a broad measure of annual inflation into positive territory for the first time this year, according to Nasdaq.
The consumer-price index, which reflects what Americans pay for everything from clothes to computers, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in June from a month earlier, the Labor Department said on July 17. Prices for gasoline, food and shelter all increased last month. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices increased 0.2%.
Both measures matched the forecasts of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.
Compared with a year earlier, overall prices rose 0.1%, marking the first annual increase since December. Core prices were up 1.8% from a year earlier.
Shelter prices, the largest component of the index, rose 0.3% last month and are up 3% from a year earlier. Food prices were up 0.3% last month, lead by an increase egg, meat and poultry prices. Food costs increased 1.8% from a year earlier.
Energy prices rose 1.7% last month, but are still down 15% from a year earlier. Gasoline prices were up 3.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis in June. Gasoline prices remain 23.3% below year-earlier levels.
Still, inflation remains quite subdued by historical standards. The mild price increases reflect a number of factors, including lower energy prices compared with last year and a strong dollar that makes imported goods relatively less expensive. Crude oil touched a peak above $100 a barrel about year ago before tumbling to below $50 earlier this year. Oil prices firmed in June.
Meanwhile, prices for many goods that are often imported, including apparel, toys and household furnishings all decreased last month.
"The stronger dollar has pushed down the prices of imported goods, and that, in turn, has put downward pressure on core inflation," Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in a speech last week. "However, these downward pressures seem to be abating."
The Fed is looking for inflation to firm gradually as it considers when to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since December 2008. Central bank officials have indicated they could start lifting rates as early as September, if the economy continues to show signs of steady growth.
The Fed's preferred inflation gauge, the price index for personal consumption expenditures, has undershot a 2% target for three years. Persistently low inflation is a worry for the economy because it can slow the pace of wage increases and make it more difficult for households and businesses to pay off debts.
A separate Labor Department report showed American's inflation-adjusted weekly earnings fell 0.3% in June. The decline reflects stronger inflation and flat average hourly earnings.