Food, rental housing bump up US consumer inflation

In the 12 months through March, the core CPI advanced 1.7 per cent

Shoppers walk around the Easton Towne Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photograph: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

Shoppers walk around the Easton Towne Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photograph: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 13:42

US consumer prices rose in March, but inflation pressures remained generally benign, which should give the Federal Reserve ample scope to keep interest rates low.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday its Consumer Price Index increased 0.2 per cent last month as a rise in food and shelter costs offset a decline in petrol prices. The CPI index had gained 0.1 per cent in February.

In the 12 months through March, consumer prices increased 1.5 per cent after rising 1.1 per cent over the 12 months through February.

The so-called core CPI, which strips out the volatile energy and food components, also rose 0.2 per cent in March after edging up 0.1 per cent the prior month.

In the 12 months through March, the core CPI advanced 1.7 per cent after rising 1.6 percent in February.

The Fed targets 2 per cent inflation and it tracks an index that is running even lower than the CPI. The rise last month could ease concerns among some policymakers about inflation being too low.

In March, food prices increased 0.4 per cent after rising by the same margin in February. A drought in the West has pushed up prices for meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables.

More price increases could be on the way after food prices at the factory gate posted their biggest gain in 10 months in March. Petrol prices fell 1.7 per cent, declining for a third straight month.

Within the core CPI, shelter costs increased 0.3 per cent, which accounted for almost two-thirds of the rise in the index. Rents increased 0.3 per cent.

There were also increases in medical care, apparel, used cars and trucks, airline fares and tobacco. The cost of recreation, and household furnishings fell.

Reuters