US inflation gathers some steam as economy improving

US inflation gathers some steam as economy improving

The cost of living is increasing more sharply in the United States, government data showed Thursday amid signs that the world's largest economy has been gaining some strength, dpa reported http://www.dpa.de

The Labour Department's January figures found that consumer prices increased 0.4 per cent for the second straight month, marking the highest inflation levels since mid-2009.

The news follows a spate of data in recent months suggesting the US economy could be emerging from a prolonged slump. The US Federal Reserve on Thursday raised its own forecasts, predicting the economy would grow 3.4-3.9 per cent in 2011.

Also Thursday, a separate gauge of the US economy's prospects rose for the seventh straight month. The New York-based Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators added 0.1 per cent in January, though much lower than a 0.8-per-cent jump the previous month.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said the economy started gathering momentum toward the end of autumn, and "the latest data suggest that trend will continue."

The inflation gains over December and January compared to more modest monthly increases over nearly two years. The last month before December that posted a 0.4-per-cent gain was June 2009.

But more than two thirds of the gains in January came from food and energy prices. Excluding those two more volatile costs, so-called core inflation stood at 0.2 per cent, the Labour Department said.

The US central bank has rejected calls from conservative lawmakers that it pay closer attention to inflation, pointing instead to a weak labour market that has yet to show significant improvement despite higher economic growth.

Unemployment remains at 9 per cent, though it has fallen over the last two months from 9.8 per cent in November. The Fed on Thursday said it expects the jobless rate to hold at 8.8-9 per cent for the remainder of this year and drop slowly over the next few years.

Over the last 12 months, consumer prices have climbed 1.6 per cent. The core rate in the past year has risen 1 per cent. The Fed on Thursday forecast that inflation would not climb above 1.7 per cent for 2011

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