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U.S. March CPI Rises 0.2%

WASHINGTON (MNI) -- The U.S. March consumer price report showed slightly higher-than-expected monthly numbers that largely resulted from rising shelter costs, but these probably are not the start of a generalized jump in inflation.

The March CPI was up 0.2% overall and also up 0.2% in core (+0.2041% unrounded). These produced over-the-year rates of +1.5% overall and +1.7% core, still well below the 2% area that is thought to be steady-state pricing.

Food posted +0.4% as meats, dairy, and fruits & vegetables gained.

Energy posted -0.1% as gasoline prices were down 1.7% (+5.1% before adjustment) and fuel oil down 2.9%. In contrast, natural gas jumped 7.5% in its biggest gain since October 2005. Natural gas prices are up 15.3% in the last three months, which accounts for most of the +16.4% posted over the last year.

In core, about two-thirds of the gain was due to rents and Owners' Equivalent Rents, which were up 0.3% each. The over-the-year run-rates on these components is almost twice that of the overall CPI, reflecting demand for housing as the economy recovers.

Used cars posted +0.4%, airfares +0.5%, and alcohol +0.3% in some other core components. These were offset by flat prices for new cars, -0.2% for prescription drugs, and -0.3% for admissions to entertainment.

Overall the monthly CPI was higher than expected but probably not the start of upsurging inflation given offseting weakness in core goods.


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