Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gas Prices Down, Food Prices Up

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Eating at home to save money?  Well, the cost of groceries and the electricity or natural gas to cook the food have gone up, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  It may cost less for consumers to drive to a restaurant thanks to lower gasoline prices, but the bill at the restaurant could also be higher.  Overall, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 1.1% since last year, the smallest 12-month increase since November 2010.

A sharp decrease in gasoline prices was the primary cause for the decline in the Consumer Price Index.  Fuel oil prices also declined while electricity and natural gas prices increased; the net result was a 4.3% decrease in energy prices.  Food prices, unchanged in March, rose 0.2% in April.

The index for all consumer items less food and energy increased 0.1% in April, the same increase as in March.  The costs for shelter, used cars and trucks, new vehicles, and tobacco all increased in April. These increases were partially offset by declines in prices for apparel, airline fares, and recreation. 

Food Prices

Food prices increased 0.2% in April. The cost of eating food at home turned up in April, increasing 0.1%.  Over the last 12 months, food at home prices have risen 1% with all the major component groups increasing over that span except nonalcoholic beverages, which fell 0.2%. 

Grocery Store Prices

Four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased in April. The largest increase was for cereals and bakery products, which rose 0.6%.  Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, and other food at home prices increased 0.4%, while the nonalcoholic beverages rose 0.3%. 

In contrast, fruits and vegetables fell 1.4% in April as prices for fresh fruits and vegetables both declined for the second straight month.  Prices for dairy and related products were unchanged in April after declining in February and March. 

Dining Out

The index for food away from home increased 0.3% in April; this was its largest increase since August and it has risen 2.3% over the past year.

Energy Prices

Gas prices fell 8.1% in April.  Prices for fuel oil also continued to decline, falling 4.4% last month. Over the past year, gasoline prices have declined 8.3% and fuel oil prices have fallen 5.6%.

In contrast to these declines, natural gas and electricity prices have risen 7.6% and 1.1% for the year, respectively.  Natural gas prices jumped by 4.4% in April - the largest price increase since July 2008. Electricity prices also rose in April by 0.5%.