Consumer prices up 0.4% last month, biggest gain in 6 months

A shopper loads her basket next to a display of paper towels in a Costco warehouse in this photograph taken Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Sheridan, Colo. U.S. consumer prices edged up 0.2% in November as a rise in energy costs and variety of other items offset a drop in food costs. The Labor Department reported on Thursday, Dec. 10, that the gain in the consumer price index followed an unchanged reading in October and matched the 0.2% September advance. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (David Zalubowski, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer prices increased 0.4% in February, the biggest increase in six months, led by a sharp jump in gasoline prices.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the February advance in its consumer price index followed a 0.3% rise in January and was the largest advance since a similar 0.4% increase in August.

Over half of the increase came from a second monthly surge in gasoline prices, which rose 6.4% after a 7.4% jump in January. Gasoline costs have been climbing since December, reflecting rising costs of crude oil.

Consumer prices are up 1.7% over the past year, a still moderate performance for inflation which is running below the Federal Reserve's 2% target for price increases. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, was up just 0.1% in February and 1.3% for the past 12 months.