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Gas prices fueling inflation

But without the oil increases, average prices well-behaved

Higher gasoline prices helped push the cost of living along the Wasatch Front up 0.3 percent in February after January's 0.6 percent increase, according to a report by Wells Fargo & Co.

Gasoline prices along the Wasatch Front soared a whopping 28 cents to an average $1.69 a gallon in March over January's pump prices.

Nationally, gasoline prices have increased 38.3 percent since September, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Deseret News graphic

Cost of living index

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But the higher transportation costs may be short-lived, as falling crude oil prices and a commitment by OPEC to increase output ease pressure.

In early trading Friday, the price of light sweet crude oil for April delivery was down $1.21 at $27.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. As recently as last month, crude oil prices were above $35 a barrel.

Aside from transportation costs, clothing and utilities also showed gains in February, up 0.8 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Housing costs along the Wasatch Front dropped 1 percent, mainly attributable to lower rental charges. Grocery costs also reported a decline of 1.1 percent.

The non-seasonally adjusted cost of living index put together by Wells Fargo tracks the costs of 10 spending categories in a typical family budget.

Local prices in other categories — health care, dining out, education and communication, recreation, and other goods and services — remained flat.

Nationally, the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers increased 0.8 percent in February, before seasonal adjustment (0.6 percent seasonally adjusted), the largest rise in two years, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Excluding increases in energy prices, the "core" rate of inflation inched up just 0.1 percent for the second straight month. That suggested that most other prices are well behaved.

While the rise in all consumer prices was slightly faster than the 0.5 percent increase economists were expecting, the showing on the "core" inflation rate was a bit better than the 0.2 percent rise that was forecast.

Transportation costs across the country have risen 7 percent over the past six months, largely the result of worries preceding this week's U.S.-led attack in Iraq.

Contributing: The Associated Press