The food and beverages index was virtually unchanged in December, as increases in the indexes forfood away from home and alcoholic beverages offset a 0.4 percent decline in the food at home index. Withinfood at home, the indexes for three of the six major grocery store food groups declined. The fruits andvegetables index declined 2.4 percent in December, the fourth consecutive decrease, with fresh vegetablesdown 4.4 percent. The index for dairy and related products turned down in December, falling 0.9 percent afterrising 0.4 percent in November. For the year, the indexes for fruits and vegetables and for dairy and relatedproducts rose 3.4 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. The index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs declined 0.5percent in December, but was up 5.1 percent for the year. The December decrease was driven by a 6.6 percentdecline in the index for eggs. The indexes for cereals and bakery products and for other food at home bothincreased in December. The former index rose 0.3 percent in December and posted an 11.7 percent 12 monthincrease, while the latter climbed 0.6 percent and was up 9.3 percent for the year. The index for nonalcoholicbeverages was virtually unchanged in December and has increased 5.9 percent since December 2007. Theindex for food away from home advanced 0.3 percent in December while the alcoholic beverages indexincreased 0.6 percent.The index for housing was virtually unchanged in December after declining 0.1 percent in November.The shelter index, which rose 0.2 percent in November, was also virtually unchanged. Increases in the indexesfor rent and owners’ equivalent rent of 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, offset a 0.7 percent decline inthe index for lodging away from home. For the 12 months ending December, the housing index rose 2.4percent, with the index for shelter increasing 1.9 percent. The household energy index declined 0.7 percent inDecember, but registered a 5.9 percent increase over the last 12 months. Within household energy, the indexfor fuel oil declined sharply, down 12.7 percent in December and 21.0 percent over the last year. The naturalgas index declined 1.6 percent but was up 5.5 percent during 2008. The electricity index increased inDecember, rising 0.6 percent to a level 8.6 percent above a year ago. The index for household furnishings andoperations increased 0.1 percent in December.The transportation index fell 4.4 percent in December as several of its major components continue todecline. This was the fifth consecutive monthly decrease and the index is now down 13.3 percent over the pastyear. The motor fuel index decreased 16.8 percent in December. (Before seasonal adjustment, motor fuelprices fell 20.3 percent in December and were 42.2 percent below their December 2007 level) The index fornew and used motor vehicles fell for the fifth straight month, declining 0.4 percent. The new vehicles indexdeclined 0.4 percent and the index for used cars and trucks fell 0.8 percent. The index for public transportationdeclined 1.3 percent in December as the airline fare index decreased 1.2 percent. This was the fourth straightdecline in the airline fare index, but it was still 1.4 percent higher than in December 2007.The index for apparel turned down in December, declining 0.9 percent after rising 0.3 percent inNovember. Prior to seasonal adjustment, apparel prices fell 3.5 percent, and are 1.0 percent below theirDecember 2007 level.The index for medical care rose 0.3 percent in December after increasing 0.2 percent in November, andis up 2.6 percent over the past year. The medical care commodities index increased 0.5 percent, with the indexfor nonprescription drugs and medical supplies rising 1.1 percent. The index for medical care servicesadvanced 0.2 percent in December after rising 0.1 percent in November. The physicians’ services indexincreased 0.4 percent and the index for hospital and related services rose 0.5 percent.After being virtually unchanged in November, the index for recreation declined 0.2 percent inDecember. Decreases in the indexes for sporting goods, for photography, and for toys contributed to thedecline. The index for video and audio, which fell 0.1 percent in November, increased 0.1 percent inDecember. The recreation index has increased 1.8 percent over the past year.The index for education and communication rose 0.3 percent in December after advancing 0.2 percent inNovember and has risen 3.6 percent over the past year. The index for education increased 0.5 percent inDecember and the index for communication rose 0.2 percent. Within the latter group, the telephone servicesindex increased 0.1 percent and the index for information technology, hardware and services rose 0.4 percent.