U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in 14 months in March, but underlying inflation remained benign against the backdrop of slowing domestic and global economic growth.
The tame inflation environment and moderating economic activity support the Federal Reserve's decision last month to suspend its three-year campaign to raise interest rates. The U.S. central bank dropped projections for any rate hikes this year after lifting borrowing costs four times in 2018.
The Labor Department said on Wednesday its Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent, boosted by increases in the costs of food, gasoline and rents. That was the biggest advance since January 2018 and followed a 0.2 percent gain in February.
In the 12 months through March, the CPI increased 1.9 percent. The CPI gained 1.5 percent in February, which was the smallest rise since September 2016. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI climbing 0.3 percent in March and accelerating 1.8 percent year-on-year.
Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI nudged up 0.1 percent, matching February's gain. In the 12 months through March, the core CPI increased 2.0 percent, the smallest advance since February 2018. The core CPI rose 2.1 percent year-on-year in February.
The Fed, which has a 2 percent inflation target, tracks a different measure, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, for monetary policy.