SALT LAKE CITY — Consumer prices held steady last month, according to a new report. The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index increased 0.2 percent in February.
The U.S. Consumer Price Index — an aggregation of all prices throughout the nation — increased at a similar rate of 0.4 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Utah’s economy has shown significant signs of improvement over the past 12 months, leading many residents to exhibit higher levels of economic optimism, said Randy Shumway, chief executive officer of The Cicero Group.
"However, diplomatic pressures with Iran, political unrest in Syria, and Greece’s debt crisis may challenge the recent rise in optimism as gasoline costs begin to increase," he said. "The sudden jump in gasoline prices has served as a sobering reminder of the risks energy costs pose to the economic recovery."
Shumway noted that the average price of regular gasoline in Utah increased 15 cents last month, pushing transportation costs up along the Wasatch Front. Transportation, which account for approximately 19 percent of a consumer’s income, rose 0.2 percent in February, the first increase since October 2011. Facilitating last month’s increase was a rise in the price of gasoline, airfare, and vehicle rentals along the Wasatch Front, he said.
Meanwhile, the cost of housing along the Wasatch Front increased 0.4 percent last month. Year-over-year, the cost of housing rose 3.2 percent — slightly above the national inflation rate of 1.8 percent.
The cost of food at home fell 0.9 percent last month, the first inflationary decrease for food at home since July 2011. Food at home prices have risen 4.6 percent along the Wasatch Front year-over-year, the report states.
"Rising fuel prices will likely push food related prices higher in the coming months as commercial transport increases in cost," Shumway said. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans can expect food prices to rise between 2.5 and 3.5 percent during 2012.