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US consumer prices jump in February

17 marca, 2011

Higher oil and food costs drove a surge in consumer prices in February, the government said Thursday, lending voice to Americans\' outcry about the rising cost of living.

Prices for consumer staples rose 0.5 percent from January, the fastest rise since June 2009, according to figures from the Labor Department.

Costs for "shelter, new vehicles, medical care, and airline fares" all went up, the department said.

Consumers have been increasingly vocal about the higher cost of living as the economy continues to grow slowly and joblessness remains at a very high 8.9 percent.

Food prices jumped 0.6 percent on average in February, while energy prices surged 3.4 percent -- taking the three month rise to nearly 10 percent.

Clothing prices fell, however, one of the few categories of popular goods to decline.

The report came on the tail of data on producer prices -- those relating to industrial production -- that were also at their highest rate since May.

Released on Wednesday, the producer price index rose 1.6 percent in February also mainly driven by energy costs but also the prices of other key basic commodities.

Together the two gave a picture of rising inflation.

Still the Federal Reserve, which sticks to a tighter definition of "core" inflation that strips out volatile food and energy costs, has maintained that the overall threat remains subdued.

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday held interest rates at historic lows and stuck to a $600 billion stimulus plan in an effort to further spur growth.

"Commodity prices have risen significantly since the summer, and concerns about global supplies of crude oil have contributed to a sharp run-up in oil prices in recent weeks," the Fed acknowledged.

"Nonetheless, longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable, and measures of underlying inflation have been subdued."

The Fed released data Thursday that supported its view that the economic recovery remains fragile.

Industrial production statistics for February showed an 0.1 percent contraction after January\'s 0.3 percent increase.

And new job losses, though trending down week by week, still remain high.

Data for last week, also released Thursday, showed new claims for unemployment benefits at 385,000.