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Increase in Consumer Prices Raises Fears of Inflation

A Labor Department report released Wednesday shows an increase in consumer prices due to significant raises in energy and gas costs, prompting concerns that the Federal Reserve will again raise interest rates to fight inflation.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The government's latest report showed inflation is continuing to rise in consumer prices, which have now grown by just over 4 percent within the past year.

    Energy and gas prices were a significant part of the increase. So how are businesses coping with rising prices? And what do those price rises mean for the wider economy?

    For that, we turn to Patrick Quinn, co-chairman of the Truckload Carrier U.S. Xpress Enterprises and chair of the American Trucking Associations, a federation representing national, state and local interests for the industry.

    Tom Zimmerman is secretary and treasurer of Spectrum Automation, a family-owned company that manufactures parts and equipment for a variety of industries.

    And Alice Rivlin, a former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, she's now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, where she follows U.S. fiscal and monetary policy.

    And, Ms. Rivlin, third straight increase, energy prices a big part of the rising inflation rate. What do you make of the numbers?

  • ALICE RIVLIN, Brookings Institution:

    Well, exactly that. Energy prices have been pushing up now for quite a long time. That is not news to anybody, gas at the pump.

    And that means that a lot of other things get more expensive. They have to be transported. And it means that other prices, the core inflation rate, as the economists say, moves up, too.

    It didn't move up much for a long time. The economy was quite resilient in the face of the oil price increases and the gas price increases. But now we're beginning to see the core move up, as well.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Why is that? When you strip out energy and food, the two so-called volatile factors, inflation still went up, but, as you say, it took a while to happen. Does that gas price sort of have to soak into the pores of the economy?

  • ALICE RIVLIN:

    Well, maybe, but we don't use as much energy as we used to in the '70s, so it doesn't push through quite as much as it used to.

    And then, people are — businesses are reluctant to raise their prices. They're in a very competitive situation, so they try to absorb the energy price increase for a while, and then it becomes impossible, and they pass it along to their customers.