U.S. consumer prices rose faster than expected in January, the Labor Department said Wednesday, adding to signs of rising inflation that have roiled global markets in recent weeks.
The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile items like energy and food, climbed 0.3% in January, the Labor Department said in a statement. Economists surveyed by FactSet had projected a 0.2% rise on average.
"Along with shelter, apparel and medical care, the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, personal care and used cars and trucks also rose," according to the statement.
The report could add to speculation among traders that surging inflation might lead to a faster-than-expected climb in interest rates, as the Federal Reserve works to prevent the U.S. economy from overheating. A recent report showing an acceleration in wage growth sparked concerns over surging inflation, helping to send the Standard & Poor's 500 Index down 5.2% last week, the most in two years.
In early New York trading Wednesday, the S&P 500 was up 0.3% to 2,662.94. Yields on 10-year Treasury bonds climbed 0.05 percentage point to 2.88%, the highest in four years.
Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist at Allianz Investment Management, said traders' private expectations for the inflation figure had been moving higher following the Feb. 2 report on wage gains.
"Investors were looking for confirmation of those expectations, and that's what they got," Ripley said. "This is one month. We still need to look at further inflation data to see if this trend crystallizes."
For all items, the CPI rose 0.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis, leaving total price rises at 2.1% over the past 12 months. That rate was above the 0.3% average estimate of economists in the FactSet survey.
Price increases on some items within the index, such as apparel and transportation, seemed unusually high, Ripley said, indicating that those may reverse in coming months.
Apparel prices, for example, rose 1.7%, he said.
"We don't expect that to continue," Ripley said. "Something less than 1% is more normal."
The Fed raised rates three times in 2017, bringing the target to a range of 1.25% to 1.5%, from near zero before the central bank starting the current hiking cycle in late 2015.
At a meeting in January, Federal Reserve officials kept interest rates steady at their first meeting of the year, saying that labor markets continue to strengthen amid "solid" economic activity.