Rising prices for food, gas and even clothing are partly responsible for a 1 percent rise in the cost of living along the Wasatch Front in March.

A Wells Fargo Consumer Price Index report issued today shows that the local consumer price index slightly outpaced the national increase of 0.9 percent. Nationally, when the numbers are seasonally adjusted, consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in March, after being unchanged in February, as energy prices jumped by 1.9 percent and airline fares, reflecting higher fuel costs, increased 3 percent, the biggest one-month gain in six years.

The Wasatch Front's overall 1 percent rise, which is not seasonally adjusted, mirrors the West's 1 percent increase in consumer prices issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Wasatch Front report shows a 3 percent rise in the cost of groceries, and a 0.9 percent rise in transportation costs, largely fueled by the price of oil.

"Rising commodity prices ... combined with the weakness of the dollar ... (are) not going to rectify easily or quickly," said Kelly Matthews, Wells Fargo executive vice president and economist.

Oil prices hit a record $115 a barrel Wednesday. At the same time, a gallon of gas cost Utahns an average $3.32, up 12 cents from a month ago and 41 cents from last year, according to AAA.

Matthews projected a gallon of gas could rise to around $3.50 during the high-demand summer driving months.

The cost of clothes rose a whopping 6.5 percent for the Wasatch Front. But Matthews attributes that to temporary price volatility. Nationally, prices rose 2.6 percent for the month, but are down 0.2 percent in the past year.

The cost of other goods and services rose 1.2 percent for the Wasatch Front. Nationally, those prices are up 0.5 percent for March, and 3.4 percent for the year.

Housing costs went up 0.7 percent, driven primarily by rising prices of household appliances, the report states. Nationally, housing cost 0.6 percent more for the month, and 3.1 percent over the past year, the report states.

Sterling Jenson, regional managing director for Wells Capitol Management, said tax rebates and federal economic stimulus checks to taxpayers are expected to help lift the economy in the second half of the year.

"I'm optimistic that we are emerging out of the fog," he said.


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