U.S. consumer prices were flat in October as plunging gasoline costs offset increases in housing, medical and airline fares, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.1% decline in the consumer price index. Energy prices dropped a seasonally adjusted 1.9% - the fourth straight decline - led by a 3% reduction in gasoline. Food prices rose 0.1%, the smallest gain in fourth months. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose by 0.2% last month. Americans are paying more for housing, especially rent, while costs also increased last month for household furnishings, airline tickets and medical care, including prescription drugs. Consumer prices have risen an unadjusted 1.7% over the past 12 months, slightly below the annual average over the past decade. Real or inflation-adjusted hourly wages, meanwhile, rose by 0.1% in October. Real wages are up just 0.4% in the past 12 months, though weekly wages have risen a stronger 0.9% because people are working longer hours.
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