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Economists expect prices to stabilize

It’s been a bad year for inflation – with the consumer price index rising 4.5 percent from September 2007 to September 2008.

But prices could hold steady in 2009, according to a Money Magazine survey of economists’ forecasts.

Consumer spending at the end of this year is expected to drop for the first time since 1991, which is seen as an impetus for retailers to keep prices under control. The magazine reports that most economists expect prices to rise by less than 3 percent in 2009.

Gas prices – which have taken a big tumble over the past month – are expected to stay level with 2008 averages, according to the Energy Information Administration. And home heating oil, which has skyrocketed over the past two years, is expected to level off.

Unfortunately, food prices most likely won’t offer much relief. Overall, they rose by about 6 percent this year, and economists predict increases of 4 percent to 5 percent next year.

See, no price increase

Food manufacturers, reluctant to raise prices right now, are instead shrinking the size of their packages, sometimes in stealthy ways.

Jars of Skippy peanut butter recently developed a big dimple in the bottom of the jar – a change that reduces the amount of peanut butter by about 10 percent without changing the look of the jar, the Los Angeles Times reports.

It’s just one of many products that are being slimmed down – sometimes in ways consumers might consider tricky. Ice cream containers have shrunk from 1.75 gallons to 1.5 gallons. Bars of Dove soap and boxes of Kellogg cereals have been shaved by a few ounces in recent months.

Hershey’s chocolate bars are smaller, and Quilted Northern has shaved a half-inch off the width of its toilet paper.

On the Web: Find previous Everyday Economy coverage packaged with these stories at


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