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Consumer Price Index shows less pain at the pump, more at the grocery store



Make no mistake, Wednesday’s consumer price index is a step in the right direction. But it’s all relative.

The annual rate of inflation eased slightly in July, to 8.5% from 9.1% a month before.

But that still means consumer prices were up 8.5% last month, which continues to outpace most people’s wages and is the main reason millions of cash-strapped households are now getting by paycheck to paycheck.

The overall inflation rate was down in large part because oil and gas prices were down, meaning there was less pain at the pump. That’s a good thing.

Used cars, clothing, air fares — they were all a bit cheaper as well.

But the cost of food is still an albatross around the necks of most consumers.

Average food prices were about 11% higher in July than a year earlier. That’s the fastest pace since 1979.

So-called food at home prices — a.k.a. grocery bills — were up 13%.

The cost of butter was up 26% last month from a year ago. Eggs were 38% more expensive. Coffee — coffee! — was 20% pricier.

And while energy costs may be easing, the price of electricity was 15% higher in July from a year earlier

“The drop in gasoline prices has been very welcome, but that doesn’t solve the inflation problem,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.

“Consumers are getting a break at the gas pump, but not at the grocery store. Food prices, and especially costs for food at home, continue to soar.”

Bottom line: We’re not out of the woods yet.

When you shake the economic Magic 8 Ball, it says, “Ask again later.”



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