Inflation Highest In More Than Three Years

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U.S. consumer prices rose 0.7% in February for the largest gain since June 2009. Gasoline prices rose 9.1%, also making the largest jump since June 2009, and accounted for almost three-fourths of February’s gain in the consumer price index. The broader price category for energy increased 5.4%.

Despite the CPI’s large jump in February, longer-term trends remain within the Federal Reserve’s target. The overall CPI and the core reading, which excludes volatile energy and food categories, increased 2% over the 12 months that ended in February. Economists expect that today’s data should continue to support the Fed’s accommodative policy stance.

Looking forward, analysts expect monthly inflation to moderate as some of February’s surge in gasoline prices is reversed this month. In the most recent weekly data, average per-gallon gas prices across the U.S. fell five cents to $3.71.

“Overall, despite the sharp rise in headline prices and some modest firming in core consumer inflation pressures, the overall backdrop for consumer prices remains favorable, providing further breathing room for the Fed,” wrote Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities, in a research note.

Prices for food rose 0.1% in February. The core CPI rose 0.2%. Read RetireMentors: From ammunition to zucchini, prices are up.

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