Price increases pick up speed

Higher gas prices lead to the biggest jump in consumer inflation since July.

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By Chris Isidore, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Prices paid by consumers rose as a faster pace in February, as higher gas prices in the month fed into the highest inflation reading since July, the government said Wednesday.

The Consumer Price Index, the Labor Department's key measure of inflation, rose 0.4% in February, after climbing 0.3% the previous month. Economists surveyed by had forecast a 0.3% rise in the latest reading.

The even more closely watched core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2% in February, the same as the increase in January. That's higher than the 0.1% boost forecast by economists.

Still, prices are little changed from where they stood 12 months ago, as lower gas prices compared to a year ago left overall CPI up only 0.2% over the course of the last year. Core CPI is up 1.8% on a 12-month basis.

Prices of gasoline jumped 8.3% in February, the third biggest jump in the price of that closely watched commodity since the spike that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But even with the rise in both January and February, the price of gas is still 36% below year-ago levels.

Gas wasn't the only staple with increased prices. Clothing prices rose 1.3%, and the cost of health care, education and recreation also increased.

But the price of many essentials stayed in check. Overall food prices were down 0.1%. Household energy prices, which do not include gasoline, fell 0.2%. Telephone and information services, which include cable television and Internet costs, were unchanged as well. To top of page

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