Falling prices for energy and used cars held down US inflation in May, extending the long run of soft price pressures, according to government data released today. 

The latest confirmation of the absence of inflation should comfort markets hoping the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in the coming months to boost the economy.

The Fed is due to hold its next policy meeting next week but most investors do not expect it to announce any changes so soon. 

The US consumer price index - which tracks costs for household goods and services - rose a token 0.1% compared to April, matching analyst forecasts, the Labor Department reported. 

Food prices jumped 0.3% in the month, but that was more than offset by a steep 0.6% decline in energy costs. 

Compared to May of last year, US consumer prices are up 1.8%, slowing from the 2% increase in April.

When the volatile food and fuel categories are excluded, "core" inflation also rose 0.1% for the fourth month in a row, falling just shy of a consensus forecast. 

Compared to May of last year, the core CPI is 2% higher, slowing slightly from the 2.1% pace of a month earlier. 

Prices medical care, air fares, education, furniture and new autos all rose. But costs for car insurance, used motor vehicles and recreation fell. 

US housing costs have been rising steadily as rents have increased 3.7% in the latest 12 months, while the equivalent costs for homeowners in up 3.3%, according to the data.

Economists said the price data undermine Fed's view that factors keeping inflation below the 2% goal are temporary.