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US consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in February

14 March 2019

The Consumer Price Index increased 0.2 percent, lifted by gains in the costs of food, gasoline and rents.

Government data on Tuesday showed that Consumer inflation stood at a provisional 2.57 per cent in February.

The consumer inflation in January stood at 1.97 percent.

Consumer price inflation for the urban areas stood at 3.43 per cent in February 2019 against 2.91 per cent in January 2019, and 4.52 per cent in February a year ago. "Core inflation slowed, but is running at a 2.1% annualized pace over the past three months and on a year-over-year basis, close to the FOMC's goal".

Compared to February of last year, CPI rose 1.5 percent, down from 1.6 percent in January, driven by a five percent drop in energy, which was the largest decline in two and a half years. Owners-equivalent rent, one of the categories created to track rental prices, rose 0.3%, as did rent of primary residence. Gas prices for U.S. drivers were $2.31 a gallon on average in February, up from $2.25 in January, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Such figures give President Donald Trump another opportunity to claim credit for lower pharmaceutical prices, an issue that he's recently tweeted about several times.

Excluding the volatile food and fuel categories, CPI slowed to 2.1 percent, after three months of 2.2 percent gains. The CPI increased 1.6 percent on a year-on-year basis in January.

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Most of the researchers and economists are expecting the US CPI data to print a reading of 0.2%m/m increase for the headline CPI which is due later today at 1230 GMT.

A New York Fed survey of consumer expectations published on Monday showed a drop in inflation expectations in February. A decline in core goods prices (-0.2% m/m) was the culprit behind the softness in core inflation.

US 30-year bond yields were slightly down at 3.031 percent, from 3.032 percent on Monday.

"With nothing in the outlook demanding an immediate policy response and particularly given muted inflation pressures, the [Federal Open Market] Committee has adopted a patient, wait-and-see approach to considering any adjustment in the stance of policy", Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said during a speech in Stanford, Calif., last week. Food costs gained 0.4 percent, the biggest increase since 2014. Annual wage growth jumped 3.4% in February, the biggest increase since April 2009, from 3.1% in January.

In contrast, output of consumer non-durables rose by 3.8 per cent and that of consumer durables by 1.8 per cent. The cost of communication services was unchanged in February for a third straight month.

Prices for new motor vehicles, used cars and trucks, as well as recreation fell.

US consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in February