WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department reports on November consumer prices. The report will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Wednesday.
FALLING PRICES: Economists believe consumer prices declined 0.1 percent in November, according to a survey by data firm FactSet. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, is projected to show a small 0.1 percent bump.
INFLATION LOW: Consumer prices were flat in October as gas prices fell for the fourth straight month.
Falling prices at the pump have kept inflation in check. Over the 12 months ending in October, prices rose 1.7 percent. That tracks well below the 2 percent target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve. The absence of strong inflationary pressures have enabled the central bank to keep interest rates at near-zero levels for the past six years to help the economy rebound from the worst recession in almost 80 years.
Falling oil prices and a strong dollar, which lowers the price of foreign-made goods, have curbed inflation. That is taking place even as hiring has picked up and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 percent, from 7 percent, over the past 12 months.
The average price of a barrel of oil has dropped below $56 from a summer high of $107. That reflects less global demand as Japan has tumbled into a recession, Europe staves off a slowdown, China manages an economy with less momentum and Russia copes with its collapsing currency. But U.S. consumers have largely been insulated from these pressures and benefited from less expensive oil.
As oil has plunged, gas prices have also fallen. Average prices nationally have dropped to $2.53 a gallon from $2.89 a month ago and $3.23 a year ago.
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