CPI Up 0.2%, Industrial Output Slipped 0.1%, Consumer Sentiment was up ... More Econ Indicators

The Labor Department reported Friday that its closely watched Consumer Price Index (CPI) posted a 0.2% increase in August, half of the 0.4% rise in July, driven by a big slowdown in energy costs, which edged up by 0.3% in August after a 2.9% surge in July.

Core inflation, which excludes the volatile energy and food sectors, also came in at 0.2% increase in August. The core inflation over the past 12 months has risen by 2.8%, the biggest 12-month gain in nearly five years and also above the Fed's comfort zone of 1% to 2%. 

For August, food prices showed an increase of 0.3%, after a gain of 0.2% in July.Clothing prices rose by 0.9% in August. The index for housing, which rose 0.3% in July, increased 0.2% in August. Medical care costs rose 0.4% in July and were 4.3% higher than a year ago. Educational costs rose 0.7%, reflecting increases of 1.2% in the index for college textbooks and 0.6% in the index for college tuition. Airline fares, which had been rising sharply because of fuel costs, fell by 1.9%, the biggest drop since last December.

Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization

The Federal Reserve said that the nation's industrial output slipped down 0.1% in August, after an increase of 0.4% in July,  reflecting weakness in manufacturing and declines in mining and utility production. The drop was unexpected. 

Manufacturing output was unchanged in August; it advanced an upward-revised 0.4% in July. The output at utilities fell 0.3% in August, as temperatures returned to more-normal levels. Production at mines moved down 0.8% after increasing in the previous four months.

Capacity utilization for total industry fell to 82.4% in August.  Still, the utilization rate was more than 2 percentage points above its level in August 2005 and 1.4 percentage points above its 1972-2005 average.

NY Empire State Index

The N.Y. Fed's "Empire State" index of general business conditions rose to 13.84 in September from a revised 11.04 in August.  Economists polled by Reuters had expected a September reading of 13.0. 

Univ. of Mich Sentiment Index

The University of Michigan's preliminary index of consumer sentiment increased to 84.4 from 82 in August. The measure has averaged 88.1 since monthly data were first compiled in 1978.

The increase in optimism suggests Americans' spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic growth, will pick up even as the housing market weakens.

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