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Consumer prices rise slightly in September on higher food, housing costs

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – U.S. consumer prices rose slightly in September owing to higher costs for food and housing, but inflationary pressures continue to be held in check by falling energy expenses. The consumer price index climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in September after falling by 0.2% in the prior month, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

That matched the MarketWatch forecast. Energy prices dropped 0.7%, led by gasoline, to mark the third straight decline. Yet the cost of food advanced 0.3%, with most major categories increasing. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, also rose 0.1%. Outside of those two categories, housing costs rose again and the 12-month increase touched 3% for the first time in six years.

Medical costs also went up. Still, consumer prices have only risen an unadjusted 1.7% over the past 12 months, the same as in August, and economists expect the falling price of oil to push that number even lower in the months ahead. The 12-month rate of inflation hit a nearly two-year peak of 2.1% in June but has since tapered off. Real or inflation-adjusted hourly wages, meanwhile, fell by 0.2% in September, though weekly pay rose because workers put in more hours. Real wages are up a scant 0.3% over the past 12 months, but weekly paychecks have climbed twice as fast.

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