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US consumer prices rise in April
22 May 2015 14:02
US consumer prices moderated in April on weak gasoline prices, but rising shelter and medical care costs boosted underlying inflation pressures, which should keep the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates later this year.
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The country’s Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index gained 0.1% last month after increasing 0.2% in March.
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In the 12 months through April, the CPI fell 0.2%, the largest decline since October 2009, after dipping 0.1% in March.
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The so-called core CPI, which strips out food and energy costs, increased 0.3%, the largest rise since January 2013, after advancing 0.2% in March.
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In the 12 months through April, the core CPI advanced 1.8% after a similar gain in March.
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"This leaves the Fed with less scope to delay raising rates until it sees more evidence of a rebound in real activity," said Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.
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"September is still the most likely (rate) lift-off date, but July is not out of the question, particularly not if we get another couple of robust rises in core consumer prices in May and June," he said.
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Prices for US government debt fell and US stock index futures turned lower after the data. The dollar was stronger against a basket of currencies.
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The upward thrust in core inflation will likely be welcomed by officials at the US central bank as they consider their monetary policy options, against the backdrop of what appears to be sluggish economic growth in the first half of the year.
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Minutes of the Fed's April meeting released on Wednesday said "many" policymakers did not believe that by June, data "would provide sufficient confirmation that the conditions" for raising the key short-term interest rate had been meet.
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A recent batch of weak data, including April industrial production and retail sales, has left many economists even doubting that the Fed will raise rates in September.
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The central bank, which has a 2% inflation target, has kept overnight interest rates near zero since December 2008. It tracks a price measure that is running well below core CPI.
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Last month, gasoline prices fell 1.7% after increasing 3.9% in March. Food prices were unchanged after slipping 0.2% in March.
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