The big advance in the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index - the most closely watched inflation gauge - followed a modest 0.2 percent rise in January, and was a slightly worse showing on inflation than many analysts were predicting. They forecast that consumer prices would rise by 0.4 percent.
Last month's increase stemmed from a huge 4.6 percent jump in energy prices, the biggest gain since a six percent rise in April.
The 0.5 percent increase in overall consumer prices also was the steepest increase since April, when consumer prices rose by 0.7 percent.
Outside the volatile energy and food categories, the "core" rate of inflation rose a mild 0.2 percent in February after posting the same-sized gain the month before. February's core rate was right on target with many analysts' expectations.
The Federal Reserve has boosted interest rates four times since June to slow the supercharged economy and keep inflation from escalating. Many analysts expect Fed policy-makers will raise rates for a fifth time at their meeting Tuesday.
Written By Jeannine Aversa
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