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) -- Prices at the consumer level rose less than expected in October, the Labor Department said early Wednesday.

The Consumer Price Index for rose 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 0.1% in September. Economists were expecting the index to rise 0.3%, according to consensus estimates from


Higher energy prices led the rise, with the gasoline index up for the fourth consecutive month and accounting for 90% of the all items increase.

Excluding volatile food and energy items, the index was unchanged for the third straight month, as higher costs of shelter and medical care were offset by declining prices of new vehicles, used cars, apparel, recreation and tobacco.

Over the last 12 months, the index for all items less food and energy has risen 0.6 percent, the smallest 12-month increase in the history of the index, which dates to 1957.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department said

prices at the wholesale level rose by a lower- than- expected 0.4%. Excluding food and energy, prices dipped 0.6%, marking the first core index decline in 2010.

Low levels of inflation has been a source of concern for the

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Federal Reserve

. Last week, the Fed resumed its purchases of bonds last week, in a bid to boost growth and ward off the threat of deflation.

-- Written by Shanthi Venkataraman in New York

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