February wholesale prices up 0.2 percent

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In February, the consumer-price index rose 0.2% from a month earlier, easing from a 0.5% gain in January, and was up 2.2% on the year.

U.S. consumer inflation rose more slowly in February, cooling from January's sudden jump, with steady gains in clothing prices and rent, the government reported Tuesday.

Core prices, excluding the volatile gas and food categories, have risen at a 3.1% annual rate in the past three months, the largest increase in nine years, and are expected to jump next month because a sharp drop in the cost of cell phone services last year will fall out of the year-over-year data.

A report released by the Labor Department on Tuesday showed consumer prices in the U.S. increased in line with economist estimates in the month of February.

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"Solid domestic economic momentum and the impulse from oncoming fiscal stimulus will underpin a gradual build in inflation toward the Fed's 2 percent target", predicted Gregory Daco, chief economist at Oxford Economics. That's in line with policy makers' outlook for price gains steadily approaching their goal and officials' projection for three interest-rate hikes this year, including one anticipated at the Fed's meeting next week.

Within the February numbers, there were signs that price pressures were running hotter than they had been at this point in 2017. Policymakers consider the labor market to be near or a little beyond full employment.

Going forward, we expect overall growth in consumer prices to be benign and end the year at around 1.9%. The food index was unchanged in February, as a decline in the index for food at home offset an increase in the food away from home index.

Central bankers were baffled for much of a year ago by the weakness of price pressures in the face of the continuing recovery.

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Producer prices are expected to inch up by 0.1%, while core producer prices are expected to rise by 0.2%. Its positive correlation with the core CPI suggests that this measure would remain below the Fed's 2.0% inflation target when the February numbers are released.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate, the price index has gained 4.2 per cent so far this year, compared to a gain of only 3.3 per cent at the same point last year.

The cost of doctor visits rose 0.2 percent. Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would pay to rent or receive from renting a home, rose 0.2 percent last month after advancing 0.3 percent in January. Transportation and warehousing prices rose 0.9 percent, most since September. Used vehicle and trucks prices declined after four straight monthly increases.

The uptick in consumer prices partly reflected higher prices for for shelter, apparel, and motor vehicle insurance.

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