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US consumer prices rise modest 0.1 percent

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Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Newscom/File

(Read caption) Gwen Martinez shops for groceries using coupons in Fort Worth, Texas. Food prices declined in May for the fourth month in a row, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

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If inflation is lurking on the horizon, it must have great camouflage.

Consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in May, the US Labor Department reported Wednesday. The core inflation rate, which excludes energy and food, rose by the same amount.

The increases were less than what analysts had forecast and represented a further sign that economic activity has not rebounded to the point that it is pushing prices up.

Indeed, many analysts expect price pressures to moderate further in the next 12 months. One is even calling for prices to fall.

"We expect mild core consumer price deflation to take hold in 2010," wrote MFR economist Joshua Shapiro in an analysis of Wednesday's consumer price data.

Energy prices have played a huge role in driving consumer prices. For example: The consumer price index has dropped 1.3 percent over the last 12 months, the biggest decline since 1950. That was mainly due to a 27.3 percent fall in the energy index during the same period. Absent energy and food, prices actually went up 1.8 percent.

Similarly, some forecasters had expected gasoline prices to jump much more in May than the 3.1 percent that the Labor Department reported.

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