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Inflation shows strongest annual gain since early 2017

Fed raises interest rates

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer prices rose 2.4 percent in March from a year earlier, the fastest annual pace in 12 months.

The Labor Department said Wednesday morning that on a monthly basis, the consumer price index declined 0.1 percent in March. However, the index's yearly gain suggests that inflation pressures may be picking up.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices ticked up 0.2 percent in March and 2.1 percent from a year ago. That was the biggest annual increase since February 2017.

The gains partly reflect the impact of changes in mobile phone services costs, which fell last spring after several carriers introduced unlimited data plans. That drop has now faded from the year-over-year data, lifting the annual gains.

Capital Economics U.S. economist Andrew Hunter noted in a statement that "the recent strengthening of monthly price pressures suggests that core inflation will continue to trend higher this year." 

He added that when looking at the results overall, "the recent inflation data keep the Fed firmly on track for another 25 [basis point] rate hike in June. With underlying producer price inflation already at a seven-year high and the tightening labor market set to put upward pressure on wage growth, we expect a continued rise in inflation to prompt Fed officials to raise rates four times in total this year."

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