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    Consumer Prices Rise 0.1 Percent

    WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer prices barely edged higher in July as a sharp drop in clothing prices helped temper rising food, energy and medical care costs, the government said today.

    WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer prices barely edged higher in July as a sharp drop in clothing prices helped temper rising food, energy and medical care costs, the government said today.

    The consumer price index, the main U.S. inflation gauge, rose just 0.1 percent last month after an identical advance in June, the Labor Department said.

    Excluding food and energy prices, which can vary widely from month to month, the so-called core CPI was up 0.2 percent in July, after a 0.1 percent climb in June. Part of the July rise could be pinned on a turnaround in communication costs, which rose 0.9 percent after falling 0.1 percent in June.

    Food prices edged up by 0.2 percent, after a tiny 0.1 percent increase in June. Lower prices for beef, pork, fruit and dairy products tempered higher prices for vegetables and poultry.

    Investors were a bit disheartened by a preliminary reading on the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for August, which edged down to 87.9 from 88.1 in July, economists said.

    Companies, concerned about whether Americans' appetites will hold up amid stock market turmoil and eroding consumer confidence, have continued to discount merchandise and offer other incentives, providing shoppers with some bargains.

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