WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer prices were flat last month, the latest sign inflation is in check. That could give the Federal Reserve leeway to continue its efforts to stimulate growth.
The Labor Department says the consumer price index has risen 1.6 percent in the 12 months ending in January. That's down from a 2.9 percent pace a year ago.
Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.3 percent in January, pushed up by higher costs for apparel, air fares and rents. Core prices have risen 1.9 percent in the past year, below the Fed's inflation target.
The Fed is purchasing $85 billion in Treasurys and mortgage bonds each month in an effort to keep interest rates low. Last month, some Fed policymakers expressed concern the purchases could cause inflation.