WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer prices rose 0.4% in December, led by a sharp rise in gasoline prices.
Last month's increase, the largest in four months, followed a 0.2% rise in November and no change at all in October, according to Labor Department numbers released Wednesday.
Inflation for all of 2020 rose 1.4%, below the Federal Reserve's 2% target. Analysts believe inflation will remain subdued with the U.S. economy still unable to break out of a pandemic-induced downturn.
For December, energy prices rose 4% with gasoline prices surging 8.4%. Even with that big jump, gasoline prices are 15.2% below where they were a year ago, when people were still commuting to work. Food costs rose 0.4% in December and are 3.9% higher than a year ago.
Deficit $216.3 billion higher than year ago
The U.S. government's deficit in the first three months of the budget year was a record-breaking $572.9 billion, 60.7% higher than the same period a year ago, as spending to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic surged while revenue declined.
The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that three months into the budget year, the deficit was $216.3 billion higher than the same October-to-December period a year ago.
The deficit reflects an 18.3% jump in outlays, to $1.38 trillion, a record for the period, while revenues fell 0.4%, to $803.37 billion. The red ink results from the difference between revenue collections and outlays. For just the month of December, the deficit totaled a record $143.6 billion. The shortfall for the 2020 budget year, which ended Sept. 30, climbed to an all-time high of $3.1 trillion.
The spending figure did not include the $900 billion relief package Congress passed after months of wrangling because it was not signed into law until the end of the month.
Brexit disrupts supply of food to N. Ireland
The U.K.'s biggest supermarket chains warned Wednesday that food supplies in Northern Ireland face disruption because of new checks imposed by Britain's departure from the European Union.
After photos emerged showing empty shelves, the chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Iceland, Co-Op and Marks & Spencer wrote to the government, saying there would be “significant disruption” unless urgent action was taken to fix an “unworkable” system.
Britain left the economic embrace of the 27-country bloc, the final stage of Brexit, at the end of 2020. A trade deal that took effect Jan. 1 allows Britain and the EU to trade in goods without quotas or tariffs. But that is a far cry from the seamless, hassle-free trade the U.K. enjoyed while it was part of the EU's single market. Companies face new expense and red tape, including customs declarations and border checks.