WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer prices declined last month as the cost of gas fell sharply and food prices were unchanged. The tame reading is the latest evidence that the sluggish economy is keeping inflation in check.
The Labor Department says the consumer price index declined a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in March, after jumping 0.7 percent in February. Gas prices fell 4.4 percent, reversing part of February's 9.1 percent gain.
Except for February's large increase, consumer prices have declined or been unchanged in four of the past five months. In the past year, consumer prices have risen 1.5 percent. That's the smallest yearly increase in the past eight months.
Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.1 percent. In the 12 months ending in March, they rose 1.9 percent.