US consumer prices fall as petrol costs drop

Petrol pumps The price of petrol has dropped, which has helped bring down consumer prices

US consumers prices fell in November due to a sharp drop in petrol prices, according to official figures, as inflation in the economy remained weak.

The consumer price index fell 0.3% from October, the first decline since May, the US Labor Department said.

The gasoline index fell 7.4% in November, which more than offset gains in prices elsewhere.

Stripping out food and energy costs, "core" prices rose by 0.1% in November, the figures showed.

Over the past year, consumer prices have risen 1.8%, while core prices have increased by 1.9%.

The US economy remains fragile and, earlier this week, the US central bank pledged to continue buying bonds to keep actual borrowing rates low until the labour market outlook improves substantially.

Though the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.7% in November, statistics suggest that much of the decline in the jobless rate since 2008 has been due to people dropping out of the workforce, either due to retirement or because they have given up seeking work.

The Federal Reserve also cut its economic outlook. It now expects the economy to grow between 1.7-1.8% this year, down from 1.7-2.0% it previously expected.

The latest data came against the backdrop of the looming "fiscal cliff" - the tax increases and spending cuts due to be implemented in January if Congress and the White House do not strike a deal.

The Fed chief said last month that all of the changes would "pose a substantial threat to the recovery".

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