Wasatch Front residents will now have a monthly cost of living (COL) index - also known as a consumer price index or CPI - to compare how local prices of housing, food, clothing, health care, utilities and other commodities and services stack up against the national figures published each month.

The data comes courtesy of First Security Corp. which has commissioned Case Research, a Santa Fe, N.M., firm, to do the monthly audit using 500 price measurements to determine the index. The data will be released each month by First Security simultaneously with the national figures provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor."We feel this information is important to business and consumers alike," FSC Chairman Spencer F. Eccles told reporters at a press conference announcing the new program. He said First Security has gathered data for the past three months for the initial report.

That study shows that the COL along the Wasatch Front - Ogden to Provo - increased 0.3 percent in May, following two months of decline, identical to the increase of 0.3 percent (bounded to the nearest 0.1 percent) announced Tuesday by the federal government.

However, First Security economist Dr. Kelly K. Matthews said that, if annualized, May's Wasatch Front COL increase would equal 3.4 percent, compared with the national non-seasonally adjusted rate of 4.2 percent.

Matthews said COL data are important to business, consumers and investors for determining the trends of inflation and interest rates.

In the various categories, decreases last month in local clothing and transportation costs were offset by increases in costs of food at home, health care and food away from home. Housing and utility costs were stable in May.

Although local overall costs were up in May, for the last three months those costs decreased 0.3 percent.

Clothing costs were down for the second consecutive month, with local costs decreasing 0.6 percent in May, equaling the national reduction for the month. For the past three months, a 2.2 percent local decline was computed.

Transportation costs locally reversed their April trend in May with a 0.1 percent decrease, compared with a national increase of 0.8 percent. For the second straight month, gasoline price increases (very slight in May) were offset by lower car maintenance and insurance costs.

Housing costs in May were stable for the second consecutive month, compared with a 0.3 percent increase nationally. For the three months, local housing costs were up 0.3 percent.

Health care costs locally were up 1.5 percent in May, the third consecutive month of increases. Nationally, health care was down 0.4 percent. Leading the way locally were higher hospital, non-prescription drugs and dental care costs.

The cost of buying food to eat at home rose 1.5 percent last month, compared with a national increase of 0.4 percent.