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Thursday AM April 16th, 2009

Consumer prices dipped in March, according to the Labor Department. Energy and food prices fell slightly in the Houston area. Ed Mayberry reports.


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The Labor Department says consumer prices edged down 0.1 per cent last month nationwide, as a drop in energy prices offset the biggest rise in tobacco prices since 1998.  The drop in energy prices affected the Houston area, according to Economist Cheryl Abbot with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Yes, in Houston the energy prices slipped by about half of a percentage point, and that does come on the heels of two consecutive monthly increases.  The energy prices on a monthly basis had been declining throughout the last half of 2008, and then we had a couple of bumps there in January and February.  Back down again in March.”

The recession is expected to keep a lid on inflation as massive layoffs dampen wage pressures and weak demand keeps companies from raising product prices.  But Abbot says it’s difficult to determine trends.

“The energy component is both supply and demand related.  As long as the economy is moving farily slowly, we may continue to see prices decline.  But on the other hand, with summer driving season coming up, we may see gas prices rise.  The good news on the gasloine — if you’re a Texas driver — the prices right now are about 40 per cent lower than they were a year ago.”

A typical basket of grocery items costing $100 in 1982 through 1984 would have cost $202.31 in March 2009. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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