Energy pushes rise in consumer prices

March 16, 2012 at 10:46 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent in February, with prices pushed by a sharp increase in the cost of gasoline, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday.

Gas prices jumped 6 percent, pushing the CPI to its highest one-month climb in 10 months.

Food prices remained flat. That left core prices (excluding energy and food items) to rise 0.1 percent.

Core prices are a critical gauge of inflation because they tell economists whether rising fuel costs are influencing prices in other sectors of the economy.

While inflation among core price items remained muted, the department said rising gasoline prices accounted for "over 80 percent of the change in the all items index."

Natural gas prices fell but escalating gasoline offset that, causing the all-energy index to rise 3.2 percent.

In the past 12 months, the all-items index has risen 2.9 percent, which was unchanged from January. Core prices on a 12-month basis were up 2.2 percent in February and that is a slight decline from the annual rate of 2.3 percent from January.

With food prices flat, the 12-month inflation rate for food fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest level since June. The 12-month energy index, in comparison, rose to 7 percent in February from 6.1 percent in January.

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