As reported on these pages Tuesday, the cost of living for Wasatch Front residents rose 1.6 percent in April over March, a hefty increase locally considering that the national inflation rate, non-seasonally adjusted, was only 0.1 percent.

The reason for the relatively steep increase locally, according to First Security Corp.'s chief economist, Kelly K. Matthews, is that old devil gasoline. Pump prices locally took an average 5.4 percent leap at Wasatch Front service stations during April.It seems that Utah gas stations jumped the gun a bit on lowering gasoline prices following the successful outcome of the war in the gulf, said Matthews, and they had to backtrack in April. "The pendulum swung too far too soon," he said.

However, Matthews thinks last month's price hikes do not reflect an ongoing trend and believes local gasoline prices should soon stabilize.

Also leading the charge to higher inflation for local residents was a 4.19 percent hike in health-care costs.

Overall, though, Matthews is optimistic about inflation, in Utah as well as nationally. Across the nation, it slowed to 2.4 percent in the first four months of 1991, and he expects the year to average out at around 3.5 percent over the next five months, a very tolerable figure based on where it has been over the past 20 years, particularly the double-digit days of the '70s.

If that doesn't calm your fears, consider that the cost of "really living" is up considerably more, shows a survey that recently came across my desk.

According to the Moet Luxury Index, a list of a dozen luxury goods and services available in New York City, the price of the "good life" in the Big Apple makes Utah's Wasatch Front inflation look benign. For example:

- A pound of Petrossian Russian Caviar has jumped 15.8 percent to $69.50 a tin.

- Rental of a limo at Carey Limousines is up 4 percent to $44 per hour.

- A round-trip ticket from New York to Paris on the Concorde is up 10 percent to $5,840.

- The tab for Broadway theater tickets to "Cats" is up 9 percent to $60 a seat.

- A bottle of Cuvee Dom Perignon, "the world's most prestigious champagne," according to Moet & Chandon, the French vintners who commissioned the survey, is up 4 percent to $79.

- The sticker on a Rolls-Royce Corniche III convertible has increased 5 percent to $226,700.

- A one-pound box of Teuscher Imported Chocolate Truffles has jumped 11 percent to $40.

- A man's Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date watch with President bracelet has soared 17.5 percent to $13,750. (You should have bought yours in 1989 when you could have had it at the bargain price of $11,700.)

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On the other hand, not everything has gone up, not even Manhattan luxuries. For example:

- A haircut at Bumble and Bumble is still a mere $65, same as the year before.

- Maid service is still only $100 per day from Maids Unlimited, same as last year.

- And perhaps reflecting environmental trends, the price of a full-length mink coat went down 11.8 percent, to $15,000.

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