Consumer prices up 2.1% in past year

Posted March 17 at 7:50 a.m.

Food and energy prices are surging. Still, underlying inflation remains low, the government said Thursday. The U.S. Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation, increased 2.1 percent during the past 12 months ending in February, up from 1.6 percent in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.

The figure was as low as 1.1 percent as recently as November.

Rising oil and food prices were two of the biggest drivers. Energy prices surged 11 percent during the 12-month period. Food rose 2.3 percent — its largest increase since May 2009.

Striping out those volatile categories, the so-called core CPI rose 1.1 percent year-over-year, up from a 1 percent rate in January.

The numbers were mostly in line with expectations. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had expected a 2 percent rise in overall consumer prices over the past 12 months and a 1.1 percent rise in core CPI.

In CNNMoney’s survey, economists identified the oil spike as the biggest headwind facing the nation’s economic recovery.

On a monthly basis, the overall CPI rose 0.5% in February, up from 0.4% the previous month. Core CPI rose 0.2 percent in February, unchanged from January.

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