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May 5, 2011
It's been an unwelcome hardship at the wrong time. Just as the economy has turned the corner and consumers have begun to dig themselves out, price hikes for gas, food, and other key products have taken the air out of the so-called recovery. But there's good reason to think that those demoralizing price spikes may be temporary, with moderating inflation giving consumers a second wind by later this year.
Inflation has been an undeniable problem for a lot of families in 2011. As every motorist knows, gas prices have jumped by about 30 percent this year, with the average pump price perched just beneath the unnerving $4 threshold. Food prices have risen by about 6 percent over the last 12 months, with some everyday items, like beef, coffee, and butter up by more. Spikes in the price of certain commodities, like copper, cotton, and rubber, are raising the cost of products ranging from clothes to cars, with manufacturers increasingly trying to pass the pain on to consumers. The sting wouldn't feel so sharp if wages were rising at a healthy clip. But many families are getting by on flat or even falling incomes. So even modest inflation hurts.