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Gas prices fall as food, housing prices rise, report says

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17 2013 11:38 a.m. MDT

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index decreased 0.1 percent from August to September on a non-seasonally-adjusted basis, primarily due to a decrease in transportation costs.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index decreased 0.1 percent from August to September on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, primarily due to a decrease in transportation costs.

Over the past 12 months, prices in Utah have increased by 1.4 percent.

According to the index report, transportation costs fell 0.7 percent, largely due to falling gasoline prices across the state. Utahns paid approximately 3 percent less on average for fuel in September than in August. Gas prices have now declined two of the past three months after the average cost rose nearly $1 per gallon from January to June.

AAA reported that the current price of a gallon of gasoline in Utah was $3.46 — down from $3.51 last week.

However, Utahns still face relatively high gasoline prices, as the national average currently sits at $3.34 — about 12 cents lower than Utah’s average price. Barring any unexpected supply disruptions, the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Association predicted that the average price of a gallon of gasoline would remain near its current level for the rest of the year, the report stated.

Utah’s gasoline price movements have generally lagged behind national price movements, so local prices will likely continue to decline and slowly move closer to the national average for the remainder of 2013,” said Randy Shumway, chief economic adviser for Zions Bank.

Consumers paid slightly more for food in September than in August. Food away prices, which include full-service restaurants, fast food restaurants, and alcoholic beverages, increased 0.6 percent month-over-month, the report states.

On average, prices at full-service restaurants increased about 2 percent in September, likely reflecting both strong demand from consumers and increasing food commodity prices, especially beef prices, which have been hovering around all-time highs over the past several months, Shumway said.

Conversely, food at home prices fell 0.3 percent in September as seafood, pork, and produce prices all significantly declined. “Year-over-year, food at home and food away prices are up 2.0 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively,” he said.

Housing costs — comprising rent, household furnishings, and hotel rates — increased 0.2 percent this month, the report said. Even a relatively marginal increase in housing costs greatly impacts consumers since housing accounts for about 35 percent of consumer expenditures, Shumway said.

Hotel rates — down 5 percent — fell for the first time in five months but were not enough to offset a jump in the prices of household appliances and furniture, he noted.

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