Prices that consumers pay for a variety of goods and services rose 8.5% in July from a year ago, a slowing pace from the previous month due largely to a drop in gasoline prices.
On a monthly basis, prices were flat as energy prices broadly declined 4.6% and gasoline fell 7.7%. That offset a 1.1% monthly gain in food prices and a 0.5% increase in shelter costs.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were expecting headline CPI to increase 8.7% on an annual basis and 0.2% monthly.
Excluding volatile food and energy prices, so-called core CPI rose 5.9% annually and 0.3% monthly, compared with respective estimates of 6.1% and 0.5%.
Even with the lower-than-expected numbers, inflation pressures remained strong.
The jump in the food index put the 12-month increase to 10.9%, the fastest pace since May 1979. Butter is up 26.4% over the past year, eggs have surged 38% and coffee is up more than 20%.
Despite the monthly drop in the energy index, electricity prices rose 1.6% and were up 15.2% from a year ago. The energy index rose 32.9% from a year ago.
Used vehicle prices posted a 0.4% monthly decline, while apparel prices also fell, easing 0.1%, and transportation services were off 0.5% as airline fares fell 1.8% for the month and 7.8% from a year ago.