US consumer prices up a slight 0.2 pct. in March

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 15, 2014 at 10:41 am •  Published: April 15, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Lower U.S. gasoline prices kept consumer inflation in check last month, helping to offset higher costs for food and clothing.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, after scant 0.1 percent increases in the previous two months. Prices have risen just 1.5 percent year over year. That remains well below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target for inflation.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices increased 0.2 percent in March and 1.7 percent in the past year.

Prices at the gas pump tumbled 1.7 percent in March, lowering costs for the overall energy category.

But food prices jumped 0.4 percent, led by increases in eggs, milk, butter, oranges, pork chops, ground beef and poultry. Prices for clothing, used cars and cable television also rose.

Overall, signs point to continued low inflation. Sluggish growth and a tough job market have limited price increases, making it harder for retailers and other businesses to charge more.

"Prices are creeping higher," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, "but with wage growth still modest and lots of retail competition, inflation should remain in check for now."