US inflation up in March driven by surges in prices of food, housing

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US consumer prices rose in March driven by surges in the cost of food, housing and other services, Commerce Department data showed on Tuesday.

The consumer price index was up 0.2 per cent over February, taking the 12-month gain to 1.5 per cent. Energy prices fell slightly, while food prices rose 0.5 per cent, shelter costs jumped 2.7 per cent and health care service costs gained 2.4 per cent.

Stripped of the volatile food and energy costs, core CPI rose 0.2 per cent as well. The core index was up 1.7 per cent for the 12 months to March.

The index overall showed inflation remains tame, nothing that should stir concerns in the Federal Reserve, which wants inflation to pick up strength before it starts normalising its ultra-low interest-rate policy.

"All of the upward push came from food prices," said Ms Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets. "It is becoming more expensive to eat these days, with costs rising for dairy, fruits and vegetables, and coffee, thanks to drought in various parts of the US, as well as Brazil and South-east Asia."