Inflation along the Wasatch Front remains in check, as the local cost of living fell 0.3 percent in June for its third decrease this year, First Security Bank reported Tuesday.

Falling prices for gasoline, lettuce, computers and cars helped keep the national Consumer Price Index in June to a scant 0.1 percent increase after a larger jump of 0.3 percent in May, according to the Labor Department.Both reports are on a non-sea-sonally adjusted basis.

"During the first half of 1998, the overall costs of goods and services along the Wasatch Front has risen just 0.4 percent," said Kelly K. Matthews, First Security executive vice president and chief economist. "In comparison, during the same period last year, the overall cost of living rose 1.8 percent."

The bank's monthly cost of living report said price increases for health care and restaurant food in June were offset by decreases in transportation, clothing, groceries and utilities.

Since First Security started its monthly cost of living reports in March 1988, prices for goods and services along the Wasatch Front have increased 34.1 percent, compared with a 39.9 percent rise nationally during that time.

Nationally, inflation ran at a 1.4 percent annual rate for the first half of 1998, compared with an 11-year low of 1.7 percent for all of last year.

In a separate report, consumer spending showed signs of slowing in June. Retail sales - which make up about half of consumer spending and about a third of overall economic activity - increased a lackluster 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said.

That followed a much more robust 1.2 percent increase in May, the best in 10 months.

The inflation-sensitive bond market initially gained ground on the reports but then gave back the gain. In early trading, the Dow Jones average of industrial stocks rose more than 70 points.

Here are how various spending categories fared locally in June:

GROCERIES - Wasatch Front grocery costs fell 0.4 percent in June after dropping 0.8 percent in May. The largest price drops were for lettuce, grapes and chuck beef. Nationally, grocery costs fell 0.1 percent.

TRANSPORTATION - Lower gasoline prices helped break an upward trend in transportation costs, which fell 1.4 percent locally and 0.2 percent nationally last month.

CLOTHING - Clothing costs also fell in June after two months of increases. The local drop of 0.5 percent compared to a national decrease of 2.1 percent.

HOUSING - Wasatch Front housing costs were stable for the third straight month. Nationally, housing costs rose 0.6 percent.

RESTAURANTS - Three months of stability ended with a 0.1 percent increase in the cost of eating out locally in June. That matched the national increase.

UTILITIES - Local residents' utility bills fell 0.1 percent during June - the first drop this year - largely due to lower gas bills. National utility prices were up 2.6 percent.

HEALTH CARE - Health-care expenses barely nudged up by 0.02 percent in June, due to higher prices on nonprescription medicines.

EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION - Costs were stable for the third straight month.

RECREATION - A national increase of 0.2 percent did not carry over to the Wasatch Front, where costs were stable.

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Additional Information

Cost of living index

WASATCH FRONT

Index %Change (Non Seas.Adj)

June 1998 Mar. 1988=100 6 mos. 1 mo

prior prior

All Categories 134.1 0.4 -0.3

Housing 169.6 2.0 0.0

Transportation 112.9 -6.4 -1.4

Health Care 140.5 1.6 0.0

Food at Home 145.4 3.8 -0.4

Clothing 120.5 -1.9 -0.5

Food Away 146.5 1.9 0.1

Utilities 94.9 0.9 -0.1

Recreation 100.5** N/A 0.0

Education & Comm. 100.0** N/A 0.0

Other goods & Svcs 100.0** N/A 0.0

NATIONAL

Index %Change (Non Seas.Adj) (Seas.Adj.)

Mar. 1988=100 6 mos.* 1 mo 1 mo.

prior prior prior

All Categories 139.9 1.5 0.1 0.1

Housing 137.3 2.2 0.6 0.1

Transportation 132.9 -1.8 -0.2 -0.3

Health Care 177.5 3.0 0.2 0.4

Food at Home 140.9 1.8 -0.1 0.1

Clothing 115.8 0.0 -2.1 0.2

Food Away 133.7 2.4 0.1 0.1

Utilities 121.2 N/A 2.6 -0.4

Recreation 101.2# N/A 0.2 0.1

Education & Comm. 100.1# N/A 0.0 0.1

Other goods & Svcs 175.8 N/A -0.1 -0.0

* Last six-month percentage change compared with same period one year ago.

** (Feb. 1998=100 base) # (Dec. 1997=100 base) Courtesy of First Security Bank