WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumer prices shot up a worrisome 0.6 percent in December, the biggest increase in 10 months, as homeowners saw their natural gas bills jump by a record amount, the Labor Department said Wednesday.
The January rise in the closely watched Consumer Price Index was the largest since a 0.6 percent increase in March 2000. Last month's figure reflected a record 17.4 percent increase in the price of natural gas, a development that has sent residential gas bills over the $300 mark in many parts of the country.
The January increase in inflation, which followed three straight monthly gains of a moderate 0.2 percent, was double what private economists had been expecting.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said America's trade deficit with the rest of the world rose to an all-time high of $369.7 billion last year even though the December deficit shrank for a third straight month.
The trade deficit for all of 2000 was 39.5 percent higher than the previous record-holder, a deficit of $265 billion in 1999. The increase occurred even though the deficit for December narrowed a slight 0.4 percent to $33 billion.
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