Inflation ticks up in March, still relatively flat

April 17, 2015
WASHINGTON (4/20/15)--For the second straight month in March the consumer price index (CPI) edged higher, but inflationary pressures have yet to gain real steam.

The CPI climbed 0.2% during the month, following up on February's 0.2% increase. On an annual basis, consumer prices are relatively unchanged.

"U.S. inflation is gradually moving in the right direction, but price pressures are tepid at best," said Ryan Sweet, Moody's analyst ( April 17). "Energy is no longer an enormous drag on the headline CPI, (and) rents are putting some upward pressure on the core index."

Rent prices climbed 0.3% in March, an acceleration from the 0.2% seen the prior month, while the rent of a primary residence rose 0.3% for the second straight month.

The energy CPI increased by 1.1% for the month, doubling up on the 1% gain seen in February, with energy commodities climbing 3.8% and gasoline prices jumping by 3.9%.

The gasoline CPI dropped by 18.7% in January.

"All told, the March CPI showed that the worst of disinflation has passed," Sweet said.

On an annual basis, CPI was down by 0.9% over the prior three months, an improvement from February's 3.9% decline and January's 5.1% setback.

Additional numbers:
  • Used-car and truck prices increased by 1.2%, while new-car prices climbed by 0.2%;
  • Food prices dropped by 0.2% during the month, reversing February's gains;
  • Apparel prices increased by 0.5% in March; and
  • Medical care service prices climbed by 0.4%.