Falling gasoline prices sent inflation index down in Oct.


The U.S. consumer inflation rate dropped significantly in October and touched its lowest level since June as surging gasoline prices fell from their peak in September, the federal government reported yesterday.

But lower prices at the pump, which have receded further in November, might not be enough to tame inflation in coming months as heating bills start climbing and businesses pass their higher costs on to customers, some economists said.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2 percent last month after gaining 1.2 percent in September and 0.5 percent in August, the Labor Department reported. The core index, which excludes food and energy, also rose 0.2 percent for the month, compared with last month's 0.1 percent increase.

Compared with October 2004, consumer prices were up 4.3 percent and the core index was up 2.1 percent.

Energy prices fell 0.2 percent in October after rising 12 percent in September and 5 percent in August. Gasoline prices fell 5.1 percent for the month, and natural gas and electricity were up 5.6 percent. Housing costs were up 0.9 percent last month, largely because of a 3.5 percent increase in hotel room rates. Medical care costs rose 0.5 percent, and food costs rose 0.3 percent.

Another Labor Department report said wages for production and nonsupervisory workers rose 0.5 percent last month, 0.4 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis. It was the third month this year in which real wages have risen.

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