Keeping Track ...

Consumer price index

Fresh fruit - up 3.7%

AIRLINE FARES - Up 1.8%

GASOLINE - Up 0.1%

CLOTHING - Down -1.1%

USED AUTO SALES - Down -1.6%

COMPUTER HARDWARE - Down -4.4%

Inflation in the US last year hit a 12-year low of 1.6 percent, the Labor Department reported. Prices rose a mere 0.1 percent in December.

Meanwhile, the US trade deficit soared to a record $168.6 billion last year.

Devalued Asian currencies allowed Americans to buy more imported goods in 1998. The previous record deficit, $153.3 billion, was set in 1987.

Economists predict the record will be broken in 1999 as the US continues to buy imports from troubled countries.

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