) -- After showing no change in July, inflation was restrained in August, as consumer prices ticked only a bit higher, driven mostly by higher gasoline prices.

On Wednesday morning, the Labor Department said its consumer price index went higher by 0.4% last month, which is just slightly more than the 0.3% rise expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Gasoline costs were the biggest culprit, with prices rising 9.1% during the month.

Even so, after stripping out volatile food and energy prices, the department said core prices fell in line with inflation expectations, rising only 0.1%.

A 1.3% drop in new vehicle prices offset price jumps in areas like lodging, air fares and used cars, because rebates from the government's so-called "cash for clunkers" program weighed down new car prices. Drops in apparel and communication also dragged on overall prices.

The report went on to show that consumer prices have fallen off by 1.5% since a year ago. Though core prices rose by 1.4%, the move marks the slimmest 12-month jump since February 2004, according to the Department.

On Tuesday, released figures also showed other signs from the consumer realm.

Retail sales jumped 2.7% in August, led mostly by better auto sales from the government's "cash-for-clunkers." A Commerce Department report on business inventories showed a

1% decline, but the report also said retail sales climbed by 0.1% in July.

Elsewhere, data also showed a

1.7% jump in wholesale prices, led chiefly, again, by a surge in gasoline prices.


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-- Written by Sung Moss in New York

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