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US consumer prices seen up in January

US consumer prices are estimated to have risen in January as a recent rise in energy prices defied the economic downturn and disinflationary trends, according to economists polled by Reuters.

As energy prices rose, a median forecast culled from a poll of more than 70 economists estimated that consumer prices overall rose 0.3% in January from December, while prices excluding food and energy items rose 0.1%.

A poll of more than 40 economists offered a median forecast for a year-over-year 0.2% drop in consumer prices in January. Core consumer prices were estimated up 1.5% from a year ago.

Higher energy prices also played a role in producer prices last month when those prices rose 0.8% after falling for five straight months, according to a Labor Department report. Analysts said, however, that inflation was not a realistic threat this year.

“A very modest rebound in retail gasoline prices is behind the headline PPI and CPI price index increases, but the key theme for 2009 for these reports is going to be disinflation - if not deflation - rather than inflation,” said Deutsche Bank Securities senior economist Carl Riccadonna in New York. (Reuters)