ECONOMY

US wholesale prices rise in March for 1st time in 5 months on higher gas costs

In this March 11, 2015 photo, newly-filled and sealed cans of Coors Banquet beer move along on a conveyor belt at the MillerCoors Brewery, in Golden, Colo. The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for March on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this March 11, 2015 photo, newly-filled and sealed cans of Coors Banquet beer move along on a conveyor belt at the MillerCoors Brewery, in Golden, Colo. The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for March on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)  (The Associated Press)

Higher gas costs drove up wholesale prices last month, ending a string of four straight declines.

The Labor Department says its producer price index increased 0.2 percent in March, after sharp drops in the two previous months. The index measures prices before they reach the consumer.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices also rose 0.2 percent.

In the past year, wholesale prices have plummeted 0.8 percent, the sharpest drop in the four years since the government updated its methods for calculating the index. Cheaper gas caused most of the decline. Core prices have risen 0.8 percent in the past 12 months.

Last month's increase suggests inflation has stabilized and may move slightly higher in the months ahead. The government reports consumer prices Friday.