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U.S. consumer prices slightly up, cost of gas down

Staff Writer |
Consumer prices in the U.S. saw their smallest gain in February since July 2016 even as a measure of underlying cost pressures quickened to an August 2011 high.

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The headline consumer price index rose by 0.1% month-on-month and was 2.7% higher on an annualised basis (consensus: 0.1%, 2.7%), and at a five-year high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even as a dip in the cost of gasoline almost offset increases for food and utility services.

In January, the CPI index had advanced at a 2.5% clip. So-called 'core' energy prices advanced by 0.2% on the month in February and 2.2% year-on-year (consensus: 0.2%, 2.2%), with the latter down from a 2.3% rise in the prior month.

In comparison to January, food prices were 0.2% higher, even as gasoline prices dropped 3.0% and those for fuel oil by another 0.4%. Electricity prices increased 0.8% and those for piped gas by 1.5%.

Prices of used cars and trucks were also down sharply, retreating by 0.6% on the month, while those for transportation services jumped 0.7%. Shelter costs increased 0.3% and those of medical care services by 0.2%.

U.S. retail sales edged higher last month, boosted by higher turnover at building materials, personal care and non-store retailers.

Total retail sales were up by 0.1% month-on-month in February to reach $473.99bn and 5.7% higher on the year-ago level, according to the Department of Commerce.

That followed an upwardly revised gain of 0.6% on the month in January, which had originally been estimated as a gain of 0.4%.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts sales rose by 0.2% on the month in February.

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