(MENAFN - Saudi Press Agency) U.S. inflation rose modestly last month as consumers paid more for gasoline and food, but outside those volatile categories inflation was mild, the government reported Friday.
The Labor Department said its consumer price index (CPI) increased 0.3 percent in March after advancing 0.4 percent the previous month.
Overall inflation was pushed higher by gasoline prices, which rose 1.7 percent last month, a much milder increase than the 6 percent gain seen in February. Even though gasoline prices appear to be stabilizing, they hurt consumers already suffering from a weak jobs market.
Somewhat offsetting high gasoline prices, electricity costs fell 0.8 percent in March, the sharpest decline since June.
Food prices rose 0.2 percent last month, but are moderating after sharp increases last year.
Excluding volatile energy and food costs, 'core' CPI increased 0.2 percent in March following a 0.1 percent gain the previous month. Inflation has eased since last autumn and is expected to remain mild.
In the 12 months ending in February, consumer inflation rose 2.7 percent, below last year's peak year-over-year rate of 3.9 percent. Core CPI prices have risen 2.3 percent in the 12 months ending in February, close to the Federal Reserve (Fed) inflation target of 2 percent.
Mild price increases leave consumers with more money to spend, which increases economic growth. Lower inflation also gives the Fed more room to keep interest rates low.
A small amount of inflation can be good for the economy by encouraging businesses and consumers to spend and invest money sooner, before inflation erodes its value. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has acknowledged that rising gasoline prices have increased inflation, but he believes the increases likely are temporary.