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Utah cost of living mostly flat but higher transportation, utility costs loom

Published May 15, 2014 3:51 pm

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The cost of living along the Wasatch Front remained essentially flat last month, with the Zions Bank Consumer Price Index (CPI) increasing just 0.1 percent from March to April.

Utah consumers, however, may not want to get too comfortable.

Zions Bank warned Utahns face higher gasoline prices and possibly higher utility prices in the coming months that may lead the cost of living to jump in coming months.

The bank noted that transportation costs increased 0.7 percent in Utah from March to April, but the 2 cent average price per gallon increase for gasoline accounted for just part of that jump. Higher prices for new and used cars accounted for the rest of that increase. Those prices climbed "likely in anticipation of the increased demand that warmer weather typically brings."

Lower utility costs somewhat offset higher transportation costs in April compared with March, according to Zions.

Overall, utility prices fell 1.6 percent due to a 9 percent decline in the cost of natural gas.

With regard to both transportation costs and utility costs, however, Zions foresees higher prices in the future for Wasatch Front consumers.

It noted gasoline prices in Utah began to accelerate toward the end of the April and continue to climb. The average price per gallon of gasoline in Utah was about $3.35 at the beginning of April, Zions said, but had increased to about $3.55 per gallon by the end of the month.

Since then, according to AAA, they have jumped to about $3.60 per gallon.

Likewise, "Utahns should keep an eye on their utility bills over the coming months ... as many analysts are concerned about the current inventory levels of natural gas," Zions said.

A colder-than-average winter in much of the nation ate into natural gas stockpiles to a point where "many analysts are worried that they may not be replenished in time to meet demand for winter heating."

"A supply shortage may send natural gas prices, and subsequently Utahns' utility bills, much higher in the coming months if producers are unable to replenish natural gas inventory levels," the bank said.

Cicero Group provides analysis and data collection for the Zions Bank CPI.

The CPI shows that over the past 12 months, prices have increased in Utah by 1.4 percent.

The national CPI, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, increased 0.3 percent from March to April on a nonseasonally adjusted basis. It has increased 2.0 percent over the past 12 months.