Washington-area consumer prices rose 1.4 percent during the two months ended in July, a rate that would translate to an 8.9 percent increase on an annual basis and double the size of the increase nationwide during the same two months, the government reported yesterday.

Most of the difference was accounted for by a more rapid increase in homeowners' costs in the Washington area. Locally, those costs climbed 4.1 percent, compared with a 0.7 percent increase for the nation as a whole.

For the 12 months ended in July, the Consumer Price Index for the All Urban Consumers category rose 2.4 percent, while the same index for the Washington area was up 5.5 percent.

The sharp disparities in the Consumer Price Index for the region compared with the nation continued a pattern that has been apparent for more than a year, in which D.C.-area prices have alternately surged ahead of or lagged behind changes in the CPI nationally.

The figures "are not saying that we're going to get and continue to get much higher inflation in the Washington area," said U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Jesse Thomas.

In contrast to yesterday's figures, in March the two indexes had increased by 3.6 percent for the whole United States and 3.7 percent for the area, he noted.

In addition to increased homeowners' costs, the price of electricity and a rise in the transportation index helped boost the area's CPI.

Overall, the housing component of the index climbed 2.7 percent, with the increase in homeowners' costs somewhat mitigated by renters' costs, which were up a relatively lower 1.7 percent. The impact of summer electric rates pushed up those prices.

The local transportation index rose 1.3 percent from May to July, a smaller increase than the 2.7 percent change for the previous two months. The main elements in the increase were higher prices for gasoline and used cars. Higher prices for automobile maintenance, repairs and registration also contributed to the increase. The public transportation index was down slightly because of lower airline and intercity bus fares.

Medical care costs declined by 0.4 percent, that category's first decline since May 1981. However, the BLS said the decline reflected periodic technical adjustments rather than any noticeable lowering of prices for medical care in the past two months.

Food prices declined 0.6 percent in the Washington area, led by lower prices for fresh vegetables and smaller price cuts for pork and eggs, the BLS said.