U.S. Consumer Prices Rose Modestly in April

By Eric Morath and Ben Leubsdorf Features Dow Jones Newswires

Consumer prices rose only modestly in April, a sign inflationary pressures are stabilizing this spring after a months-long acceleration.

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The consumer-price index, which measures what Americans pay for everything from radishes to rent, advanced a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in April from the prior month, the Labor Department said Friday. Excluding the often-volatile categories of food and energy, so-called core prices rose just 0.1% from March.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected both overall and core prices to rise 0.2% on the month.

From a year earlier, consumer costs rose 2.2%, marking the second straight month annual gains eased. Prices were up 1.9% on the year when excluding food and energy. It was the first time the annual gain in core prices had been below 2% since October 2015.

Consumer prices rose at a steady clip from August through January, but the pace of increases has eased in recent months.

Overall prices had declined 0.3% on the month in March, and advanced 0.1% in February. The March decline was partly due to an unusual decrease in the cost for mobile-phone services and a fall in seasonally-adjusted gasoline prices.

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In April, gasoline prices increased 1.2% from March, and were up 14.3% from a year earlier. Food prices rose 0.2% last month, and were up 0.5% from a year earlier.

Shelter costs--which account for about a third of the overall price index--increased 0.3% on the month and rose 3.5% on the year in April.

Prices for cars, apparel and medical care all fell last month.

A slowing trajectory for inflation will be closely watch by Federal Reserve policy makers ahead of their meeting next month.

The Federal Reserve targets a 2% annual increase in inflation, as measured by the Commerce Department's personal-consumption expenditures price index. That index advanced 1.8% from a year earlier in March. Central bankers are looking for firmer inflation and a low unemployment rate to justify further interest-rate increases.

A separate Labor Department report showed average weekly earnings for private-sector workers, adjusted for inflation, rose 0.4% in April from the prior month. From a year earlier, inflation-adjusted weekly earnings were up 0.3%. The annual gain turned positive after falling in March and February, but real wage gains have slowed from prior years. In April 2016, adjusted earnings were up 1.2% from a year earlier. In April 2015, those wages were up 2.4%.

The Labor Department's latest report on the consumer-price index can be accessed at: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm

Write to Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com and Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 12, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)