Inflation, retail sales flat in April

@CNNMoney May 15, 2012: 9:52 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- American consumers got the same bang for their buck in April as they did a month earlier, as falling gas prices gave them some relief.

Inflation was flat, as declining energy prices offset minor increases in other categories. The U.S. Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation, showed overall, consumer prices were unchanged from March to April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Energy and utility prices were the biggest factor keeping inflation tame, falling 1.7% in the month. The price for a gallon of regular gasoline was down about 11 cents in April, ending the month at an average of $3.82, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

Meanwhile, food prices rose 0.2% and clothing prices rose 0.4% in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Compared to a year earlier, consumer prices were up 2.3%, down from a 2.7% inflation rate in March.

Since energy and food prices can be volatile, economists also often like to look at core inflation, which strips out those components. Core CPI was up 2.3% year-over-year.

While that's marginally higher than the Federal Reserve's goal of keeping core inflation at 2%, it's still not high enough to spur the central bank to tighten monetary policy any time soon, economists said.

"Today's report offered few surprises, and that will surely please the Fed," said Chris Jones, economist with TD Bank. "The last thing they want is to have to face this unsavory tradeoff between having to battle inflation and lower unemployment."

Meanwhile, a separate report showed retail sales were hardly changed in April, rising only 0.1% during the month.

Sales at gasoline stations declined. So too did sales at building materials and garden retailers, which had previously spiked amid warm weather in March. To top of page

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