US consumer prices ticked higher in March, lifted by a rebound in energy prices, the Labor Department said today.

The consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.2% for the second month in a row in March, weaker than the 0.3% increase expected by analysts. 

Year-over-year, inflation dipped back into negative territory with a 0.1% fall. In January inflation had turned negative for the first time since 2009. 

The monthly number was pushed higher by a 1.1% rise in energy prices, including a 3.9% jump in petrol, and a 1.2% gain for used cars and trucks. Food prices slipped 0.2%. 

Stripping out food and energy prices, the so-called "core" CPI rose 0.2% from February, double the increase expected. 

It was up 1.8% from March 2014, marking a slight increase from the 1.7% rise for the 12 months ending February. 

The inflation snapshot came as the Federal Reserve debates its first interest rate increase since 2006. The Fed has signaled it could raise the near-zero federal funds rate as early as June. 

The CPI data typically runs a little higher than the Fed's preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index. 

The core PCE price index, excluding food and energy, rose 1.4% in February from a year ago, well below the Fed's 2% inflation target.