Some economists see in the November consumer price data something the Federal Reserve wants: higher underlying inflation.

On Wednesday, the government reported that as part of its consumer price index for last month, core prices, which are stripped of food and energy factors, rose by 0.1%, matching the gain seen in the overall index. Central bankers watch core price measures most closely because they believe they mirror true inflation patterns best.

The core CPI increase was the first in three months. For some economists, the change in the direction might be the start of something. If they are right, the Fed may be able to breathe easier, as much of its current, controversial policy of bond buying is aimed at preventing very low inflation levels from tipping over into outright deflation.

Those who see sparks of higher prices made their case on several different fronts. UBS' economists noted that the one-year gain in core prices moved up to 0.8% in November, from a 0.6% increase in October. 'We expect a further gradual acceleration in the year-over-year rate of increase next year, to 1.4%' by the fourth quarter of 2011.