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Consumer prices in the U.S. rose slightly

Staff writer |
The consumer price index increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.1% last month, the Labor Department said. The price of food jumped 0.4%, the largest gain since September 2011, because of higher costs of meat, poultry, fish, dairy and vegetables.

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While food prices have risen 1.4% over the past year, they are likely to increase in the coming months because of drought in California and unusually cold weather in other parts of the country. By some estimates, food prices at grocery stores could rise 3% or even more in 2014.

Higher food prices, however, were largely offset by a 0.5% reduction in the cost of energy. Lower gasoline costs more than negated increases in fuel oil and natural gas. High demand for home heating fuels boosted prices during a very cold month.

Excluding food and energy, so-called core consumer prices also rose 0.1% in February. Housing costs, the biggest expense for most consumers, advanced 0.2%. Prices also rose for medical care and airline tickets.

The core rate is viewed by the Federal Reserve as a more useful gauge of underlying inflationary trends. Over the past 12 months, the core rate of inflation has risen 1.6%, well below the Fed's limit for inflation.

Overall consumer prices have climbed a much smaller 1.1% in the past 12 months.

The average hourly pay of U.S. workers, meanwhile, jumped 0.3% in February to mark the biggest increase since last April, adjusted for inflation.

Real wages have risen 1.1% over the past 12 months, up sharply from 0.4% in January.


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