Inflation Rose 0.4% in February as Prices Remain Stubbornly High

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price for everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 0.4% in February from the previous month. Prices climbed 6% on an annual basis.

Core prices – which strip out the more volatile measurements of food and energy – climbed 0.5% over the course of February, slightly faster than in January. On a 12-month basis, core prices are up 5.5%.

“February CPI data was a mixed bag, but the rise in core inflation shows we’re stuck on a plateau for now,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union. “Inflation should start moving strongly lower this spring and summer, especially as lower rent costs work themselves into the numbers.”

The report is the last before the Federal Reserve Bank’s next policy-setting meeting on March 21-22 and will have major implications for the U.S. central bank, which is tightening monetary policy at the fastest rate in decades as it tries to crush out-of-control inflation.

Officials have already approved eight straight rate increases, lifting the federal funds rate to a range of 4.5% to 4.75%, well into restrictive levels. In recent weeks, policymakers have indicated that rates may need to climb higher than previously anticipated in the face of hotter-than-expected economic data.