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Inflation continues to moderate thanks to a big drop in gas prices

A man pumps gas in Alhambra, Calif., on Oct. 2, 2023.
Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images
A man pumps gas in Alhambra, Calif., on Oct. 2, 2023.

Falling gasoline prices helped keep a lid on inflation last month.

Consumer prices rose 3.1% in November from a year ago, according to data from the Labor Department on Tuesday. Price hikes have moderated significantly after hitting a four-decade high last year.

A big reason for that is cooling gas prices, which dropped by 6% last month, helping to offset the rising cost of rent, medical care, and car insurance.

Overall prices rose just 0.1% between October and November. Grocery inflation also moderated, as food prices rose more slowly in November than the month before.

The inflation scorecard comes just as the Federal Reserve begins its last policy meeting of the year.

The central bank is widely expected to hold interest rates steady when it announces its decision on Wednesday, but policymakers will likely send some signals about where they think rates are headed next year.

Though some investors are hopeful the Fed will soon consider cutting interest rates, other analysts believe rates will need to stay elevated for a longer period of time.

The Fed tends to look beyond volatile gasoline and grocery prices and focus on more lasting price changes.

The so-called "core" inflation rate, which excludes food and energy prices, was 4% last month — the same as in October, and still double the Fed's long-term target.

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Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.