​Energy costs keep overall inflation in check

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer prices fell in February, held back by another steep drop in energy prices. However, core inflation showed a bigger gain, led by the biggest jump in clothing costs in seven years.

The Labor Department says consumer prices edged down 0.2 percent last month after no change in January and a 0.1 percent dip in December.

Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.3 percent following a similar 0.3 percent rise in January.

Over the past 12 months, overall inflation is up a modest 1 percent. But core inflation is up 2.3 percent, the biggest 12-month gain since May 2012.

The Federal Reserve is closely watching inflation, which has been stuck at low levels, to determine when to raise interest rates further.