U.S. Consumer prices continued to rise in March, according to figures released Friday by the Labor Department, although the pace of growth slowed compared to the previous month.
The Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflationary pressures in the economy, increased by 0.3 percent in March compared to the 0.4 percent increase posted in February. The increase was in line with the expectations of most economists.
Energy prices rose by 0.9 percent in March, reflecting a significant slowdown from the 3.2 percent increase seen in February.
The gasoline index, which jumped 6 percent in February, also saw a slower rate of growth, increasing by 1.7 percent in March. However, gasoline prices surged up by 8.1 percent excluding seasonal adjustments
Somewhat mitigating the increase in gas prices - and in fuel oil, which also rose - the index for energy services, which includes electricity and natural gas, fell 0.4 percent.
The food index, which held level in February, rose 0.2 percent in March, with rising costs for meats, poultry, fish and eggs offset somewhat by decreases in prices for vegetables, bakery products and dairy.
The core consumer price index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, increased by a somewhat smaller 0.2 percent, also matching the expectations of economists.
The modest increase by the core index was partly due to a 1.3 percent jump in prices for used cars and trucks.
Over the last 12 months, overall consumer prices have risen 2.7 percent, while core prices, often more closely watched as an indicator of inflation, were up by 2.3 percent.
The monthly increase in consumer prices compares to a 0.2 percent increase in average hourly earnings, bringing real U.S. average hourly earnings down 0.1 percent for the third month in a row.
The Labor Department released a separate report on Thursday showing that producer prices unexpectedly came in unchanged in March amid a drop in energy prices.
The Labor Department said its producer price index was flat in March following a 0.4 percent increase in February. Economists had been expecting the index to increase by 0.3 percent.
Excluding food and energy prices, the core producer price index rose by 0.3 percent in March after edging up by 0.2 percent in February. The core index had been expected to increase by 0.2 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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