WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer prices rose in July at the slowest pace in five months, held back by a drop in gasoline prices.<br />
Consumer prices edged up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent last month, after larger gains of 0.3 percent in June and 0.4 percent in May, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. It was the smallest increase since a similar 0.1 percent rise in February.<br />
The July price restraint came from falling gasoline prices, which had surged in June. All energy prices were down 0.3 percent and this helped offset a 0.4 percent rise in food costs, which have been pushed up by adverse weather including a drought in California.<br />
Over the past 12 months, consumer inflation is up 2 percent while inflation excluding food and energy is up 1.9 percent. Price gains around 2 percent are considered moderate and meet the 2 percent inflation target set by the Federal Reserve.<br />
Analysts believe overall prices will moderate further in coming months, helped by moderation in energy costs. AAA reports that the nationwide average for a gallon of regular gasoline dipped to $3.45 on Monday, down 13 cents in the past month.<br />
Gas prices are also lower than a year ago, when a gallon of regular cost $3.54. That fall in gasoline prices is one reason for the optimism of economists that consumer spending will show solid gains in coming months. A drop in gasoline prices means consumers will have more to spend on other items.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
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