Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Consumer Price Fall 1%, Raising Deflation Fear

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The cost of living in the U.S. fell by the most on record and construction began on the fewest homes ever last month, evidence the economy is in the worst recession in at least a quarter century. The consumer price index plunged 1 percent last month, the most since records began in 1947, the Labor Department said in Washington. Commerce Department figures showed housing starts tumbled to an annual rate of 791,000, indicating the industry’s contraction may extend into a fourth year. Today’s CPI report signals deflation, or a prolonged price slide, may become another hazard facing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and President-elect Barack Obama. Deflation could worsen the economic downturn by making debts harder to pay off and countering the impact of Fed interest-rate cuts. Excluding food and energy, so-called core pricesunexpectedly fell for the first time since 1982.

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