Prices Increase Modest 0.2% in January

Associated Press

Consumer prices inched up just 0.2% last month, the government reported today, buttressing analysts' predictions that 1985 will be a fourth straight year of modest inflation.

(In the Los Angeles area, prices were up 0.6%. In the last 12 months, inflation has risen 4.6%.)

The national report said gasoline prices were off a sharp 1.4%, their steepest decline in six months. Since March, 1981, those prices have fallen 15.2%.

Food prices rose just 0.2%, despite some late-month increases in fresh fruit and vegetable prices stemming from the Florida freeze, which promises to have a more pronounced effect on February's price activity.

The January overall figure compared to a 0.3% rise in December and a 0.2% gain in November. Inflation for all of 1984 was 4%.

With the exception of the "other goods and services" category, which was up 0.9%, all major components of the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index were either unchanged or showed only modest gains last month. A 2.2% jump in tobacco prices was largely responsible for the 0.9% increase.

The department said a 3.2% increase in fresh fruit and vegetables prices was offset by a 13.6% drop in egg prices. Beef and veal prices also were off. Prices for pork, poultry and fish rose for a second straight month, however.

Housing costs rose 0.2% for homeowners and 0.4% for renters last month.

Energy prices overall declined for the second month, down 0.3%. Fuel oil prices fell 2.9%, but prices for natural gas and electricity rose 0.2% and 0.5% respectively.

Overall transportation costs rose 0.3%. Medical care costs rose 0.3% and are up 5.9% over the last 12 months.

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