C.P.I. for food, beverages flat in Dec., up 4.8% in '07

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Consumer Price Index for food and beverages was 206.68 in December, virtually unchanged from 206.6 in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor said. On an unadjusted basis, the index was up 4.8% from December 2006. Meanwhile, the index for All Urban Consumers fell 0.1% in December, before seasonal adjustment. The December level of 210 was 4.1% higher than in December 2006.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the C.P.I. followed up a strong advance of 0.8% in November by gaining 0.3% in December. Within the overall C.P.I., energy costs advanced 0.9%, accounting for approximately one-third of the overall C.P.I. increase. Within energy, the index for petroleum-based energy increased 1.2%, while the index for energy services rose 0.5%.

The index for food at home was virtually unchanged, easing to 204.7 from 204.8.

The sharpest month-over-month declines occurred in dairy, fruits and vegetables and nonalcoholic beverages, each of which decreased 0.4%. Despite the decline in December, Dairy products registered the largest increase of the six major grocery store food groups in the past 12 months, climbing 13.4%. During the past year, milk and cheese prices increased 19.3% and 13%, respectively.

The index for fruits and vegetables increased 5.9% in the past 12 months, reflecting increases in the prices for fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and for processed fruits and vegetables.

The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs was 198, down 0.1% from November. But the index has advanced 5.4% since December 2006. During that time, beef prices increased 5%, pork prices 1.4%, and poultry prices 6.3%.

Helping offset the declines in several of the major grocery segments was the index for cereal and bakery products, which rose 0.6% in December to 227.8, and other food at home, which climbed 0.2% to 174.7. During the past 12 months, the index for cereal and bakery products increased 5.4% with bread prices increasing 10.5%.

The index for nonalcoholic beverages fell 0.4% in December but rose 3.5% in all of 2007.

The other two components of the food and beverage index — food away from home and alcoholic beverages — increased 0.2% and declined 0.2%, respectively, in December, and rose 4% and 3.8% in all of 2007, the B.L.S. said.

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