US consumer prices fell in March for the first time since February 2016, led by a decline in gas prices.
The consumer price index fell 0.3%, according to the Labour Department. Economists had forecast that the index was unchanged. Excluding the volatile costs of food and energy, core CPI fell 0.1%, the first drop since January 2010.
The data demonstrated that inflation is uneven and not yet taking off in the US. Core personal consumption expenditures, which measure price changes more comprehensively and serve as the Fed’s preferred way to gauge inflation, rose above the 2% target in February for the first time since 2012.
A decline in the costs of wireless phone services also slumped consumer prices in March.
Groceries got even cheaper for Americans, with the index for food at home rising by 0.5%, the largest since May 2014. Meanwhile, food away from home got more expensive. That gap is one reason why fast-food sales have recently slowed.
Shelter costs, recently a big driver of the overall index, increased by 0.1%, the smallest rise since June 2014 according to Bloomberg.