Energy Costs Drive Uptick in Consumer Prices

(CN) – An increase in costs for gasoline, electricity and housing fueled a 0.4% surge in U.S. consumer prices last month, the biggest jump in 14 months.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

The consumer price index, which measures what Americans pay for a wide range of products, is up 1.9% over the last 12 months, an increase from the 1.5% annual rate reported in February.

Though March’s 0.4% uptick in prices was the largest monthly hike since January 2018, the 12-month increase seen last month is in line with the Federal Reserve’s 2% annual inflation target. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank can be “patient” with raising interest rates this year while inflation pressures are being kept in check.

Gas prices surged 6.5% last month after a modest 1.5% gain in February, while shelter expenses have climbed 3.4% annually after a 0.4% uptick last month. Electricity costs saw a monthly gain of 0.4% after decreases in January and February, according to a Labor Department report released Wednesday.

Food prices jumped 0.3% in March, down from the 0.4% increase seen in February, while clothing, used vehicles and airfare costs all dropped.

Excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, consumer prices increased 0.1 percent in March, the same gain as the month before.  

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