“WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices rose slightly in May as higher energy costs were partly offset by cheaper food. The small increase comes after two straight declines, underscoring that American consumers are benefiting from mild inflation.
The consumer price index ticked up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent last month, only the second increase in seven months, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Consumer prices fell 0.4 percent in April, the largest decline in four years. In the past 12 months, prices have increased just 1.4 percent. That’s up from a 1.1 percent annual pace in April, which was the smallest in 2 ½ years.
Slow economic growth and high unemployment have kept wages from rising quickly. That’s made it harder for retailers and other firms to raise prices.
Still, tame inflation has helped consumers increase spending this year, despite slow income growth and higher Social Security taxes. It also makes it easier for the Federal Reserve to continue its extraordinary efforts to boost the economy.
And while inflation is low, economists say it isn’t low enough to alarm Fed policymakers. Tuesday’s report “won’t prevent the Fed from beginning to reduce its monthly asset purchases, probably beginning in September,” said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics….”Twitter