By: Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lower gas costs offset more expensive food and higher rents to keep a measure of U.S. consumer prices flat last month.
The Labor Department says food prices increased 0.2 percent in December from November. Rents and airline fares also rose. Gasoline prices fell a seasonally adjusted 2.3 percent.
The overall flat reading ends a year when inflation slowed. The consumer price index rose only 1.7 percent in 2012, down from 3 percent in 2011. Food prices increased 1.8 percent, down from 4.7 percent in 2011. Energy prices rose slightly.
Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices ticked up 0.1 percent in December.
Core prices rose only 1.9 percent in 2012, below the Federal Reserve's inflation target of 2 percent. That's also lower than 2011's increase of 2.2 percent.