It may not feel like it, but you actually paid a little less at the grocery store last month, according to Wells Fargo's Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index issued today.
Still, the overall cost of living went up 1 percent between April and May, outpacing the national increase by 0.2 percent (0.4 percent when seasonally adjusted), according to the Wells Fargo report and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Locally, food prices dropped 3.4 percent in May, while the cost of eating out remained flat. Nationally, however, groceries went up 0.5 percent in May. Locally, grocery prices went up 1.4 percent over the past three months; nationally, they rose 1.7 percent.
The cost of getting around town went up 3.5 percent in May and 6 percent over the past three months largely due to the price of gasoline, which this week hit $4 a gallon.
Though pump prices are on the minds of many consumers, transportation wasn't the report's standout. Rather, it was the cost of clothes up 12.4 percent in May and 15 percent in the past three months.
Still, Wells Fargo economist and executive vice president Kelly Matthews says he's not too worried about blue jeans getting consumers down. The index measures only about 30 clothing items, a small sample more likely to reflect the ups and downs of sale prices.
Consider: the national CPI looks at more than 1,000 items, and shows a 1 percent decline in May, and a 2.5 percent jump over three months. Utah is close to the national average on many other indicators.
Utilities on the Wasatch Front went up 3.6 percent, and housing, 0.1 percent for May. Other goods and services dropped 0.2 percent, largely due to cheaper prices on cosmetics.
There could be a silver lining on the horizon. Core inflation, which doesn't count food and energy, is stable nationally at 2.3 percent, Matthews said. That suggests commodity price spikes aren't spreading to the rest of the economy.
Also, markets are expecting the Fed to raise interest rates within the next three months, Matthews said. While that might not sound good at first, it's seen as a way to strengthen the dollar.
With that, Matthews said, "We may be able to see things improve sooner than anticipated."
As for investors, "It's time to start asking what may go right," said Chris Neddo, portfolio manager and analyst for Wells Capital Management.
"It's that proverbial darkness before the dawn," Neddo said, suggesting investors look at moving away some from safe havens and taking more risks.For more than 40 years, the stock market has achieved its best median returns the year after low consumer confidence readings, he said.
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