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US consumer prices continued to rise last month — but the Fed probably won’t raise rates

New inflation numbers: What new data reveals

WASHINGTON — U.S. inflation accelerated in August for the second straight month, pushed up by rising gas prices. However, core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, continued to slow, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Wednesday.

The Consumer Price Index, a closely watched inflation gauge, rose 3.7% in August from a year earlier, up from July’s 3.2% rise.

That’s roughly in line with economists’ expectations.

On a month-to-month basis, prices rose 0.6% in August, compared with a 0.2% gain in July.

However, core inflation slowed to 4.3% from 4.7% for the 12 months ending in August, an indication that the Federal Reserve’s 11 rate hikes are working their way through the economy. Monthly core inflation rose by 0.3% in August, picking up significantly for the first time since February.

Wednesday’s inflation report likely keeps the Fed on track for a pause in rate hikes next week when central bank officials meet to deliberate monetary policy.

Gas prices were the largest contributor to the CPI’s acceleration in August, accounting for more than half of the increase. The CPI’s gasoline index jumped 10.6% in August from the prior month, up sharply from the 0.2% gain in July. The overall energy index, which includes gasoline, advanced 5.6% in August from July. Rising shelter costs continued to feed into inflation.

Global oil prices have risen recently as OPEC+ nations cut production and demand soared. A deadly flood in Libya this week disrupted oil exports, which pushed up prices at the pump. The national average for regular gasoline stood at $3.85 a gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA, the highest level in 10 months. Gasoline prices are highly visible indicators of inflation, so more pain at the pump could also weigh on US consumers’ moods.

But economists don’t expect volatile energy prices to prevent inflation’s slowdown in the months ahead.

“The pass-through effect from energy prices to core inflation is small, relative to the downdraft that we’re seeing from other areas,” Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo, told CNN in an interview.

“Firmer energy prices, if sustained, could feed through to the core and make the Fed’s jobs harder in terms of returning inflation back to its 2% target on a sustained basis, but I think we’re going to see that dynamic overwhelmed by the continued unwinding of some of the supply and even demand distortions that we’ve seen since the pandemic,” she said.

This story is developing and will be updated.