WASHINGTON, March 18 U.S. consumer prices rose
marginally in February, but the lack of inflation pressures will
probably not dissuade the Federal Reserve from dialing back its
The Labor Department said on Tuesday its Consumer Price
Index nudged up 0.1 percent as a decline in gasoline prices
offset an increase in the cost of food.
The CPI had ticked up 0.1 percent in January and last
month's gain was in line with economists' expectations.
In the 12 months through February, consumer prices increased
1.1 percent, slowing from a 1.6 percent rise in January. The
February increase was the smallest rise since October last year.
Stripping out the volatile energy and food components, the
so-called core CPI also rose 0.1 percent for a third straight
month. In the 12 months through February, core CPI rose 1.6
percent after rising by the same margin in January.
Consumer inflation is running below the Fed's 2 percent
target, which suggests interest rates will probably remain near
record low levels even as the U.S. central bank cuts back on
the amount of money it is injecting into the economy each month.
With job growth accelerating and industrial production and
consumer spending strengthening, economists expect the Fed to
announce another $10 billion reduction to its monthly bond
purchases when policymakers end a two-day meeting on Wednesday.
Last month, food prices rose 0.4 percent, the largest
increase since September 2011. That accounted for more than half
of the increase in the CPI last month.
There were big increases in the prices of meat, fish,
poultry, eggs, vegetables and fruits.
Gasoline prices declined for a second month, helping to
offset sharp gains in the price of heating oil and natural gas.
Within the core CPI, a 0.2 percent rise in the cost of
shelter was the major contributor for the rise in the index.
There were also increases in medical care, recreation and new
vehicle prices. Prices for tobacco, used cars and trucks,
apparel and household furnishings and operations fell.