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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the CPI data for December this morning. Year-over-year unadjusted Headline CPI came in at 1.59%, which the BLS rounds to 1.6%, down from 1.74% last month (rounded to 1.7%). Year-over year-Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 1.93% (BLS rounds to 1.9%), virtually unchanged from last month's 1.89%. However, the January Core number was up 0.3% from December.

Here is the introduction from the BLS summary, which leads with the seasonally adjusted data:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.6 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.3 percent in January. This increase offset another decline in the gasoline index and resulted in the seasonally adjusted all items index being unchanged, as it was last month. Increases in the indexes for shelter and apparel accounted for much of the increase in the index for all items less food and energy, with advances in the indexes for recreation, medical care, and airline fares also contributing.

The energy index fell 1.7 percent in January. Along with the gasoline index, the natural gas and fuel oil indexes also declined, while the electricity index increased. The index for food was unchanged in January after increasing in each of the previous ten months. The food at home index was unchanged with major grocery store food group indexes mixed.

The all items index increased 1.6 percent over the last 12 months; the 12-month change has been slowing since its recent peak of 2.2 percent in October. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.9 percent over the last 12 months, the same figure as the last two months. The food index has risen 1.6 percent over the last 12 months while the energy index has declined 1.0 percent. More...

The Briefing.com consensus forecast was for a seasonally adjusted MoM 0.1% for Headline and 0.2% Core.

The first chart is an overlay of Headline CPI and Core CPI (the latter excludes Food and Energy) since 1957. The second chart gives a close-up of the two since 2000.

(click to enlarge)

On the chart below I've highlighted 2 to 2.5 percent range. Two percent has generally been understood to be the Fed's target for core inflation. However, the December 12 FOMC meeting raised the inflation ceiling to 2.5% for the next year or two while their accommodative measures (low Fed Funds Rate and quantitative easing) are in place.

Here we see more easily see the widening spread between headline and core CPI since late 2010, a pattern that began changing in October 2011 as headline inflation declined while core continued to rise, although it reversed directions earlier this year. We also see the jump in headline inflation since August owing mostly to the inevitable ripple effect of the rise in gasoline prices. With the decline in gasoline prices over the past few months, the headline number has continued to ease.

(click to enlarge)

Federal Reserve policy, which has historically focused on core inflation, and especially the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), will see that the latest core CPI is below the near-term target range of 2 to 2.5 percent, and the more volatile headline inflation has fallen further below target range.

Source: Inflation Remains Tame Year-Over-Year, But Core Inflation Jumped In January