Consumer Prices Rise 0.4% in April

Consumer prices rose as expected in April on higher food and energy prices, but continued to exhibit little sign of a broader pick-up inflation that would trouble the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.4 percent after rising 0.5 percent in March. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.4 percent rise last month.

Core CPI -- excluding food and energy - gained 0.2 percent after edging up 0.1 percent in March and in line with economists' expectations. The monthly increase in core CPI has been bouncing around 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent since November.

The core reading is closely watched by the U.S. central bank as a guide to monetary policy.

Fed officials believe high commodity prices, which undercut economic growth in the first quarter, will not have a lasting effect on inflation.

Gasoline prices accounted for almost half of the rise in overall consumer inflation last month, advancing 3.3 percent. The pace of increase, however, slowed from March's 5.6 percent rise.

Food prices rose 0.4 percent after increasing 0.8 percent in March.

Rising costs for housing, new vehicles, used trucks and medical costs bumped up core inflation last month. Shelter costs, which account for about 40 percent of core CPI, rose 0.1 percent, rising by the same margin for a seventh straight month.

Prices for new vehicles rose 0.7 percent last month, likely reflecting tight inventories as a shortage of parts in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan disrupts production. They increased by a similar margin in March.

Apparel prices rebounded 0.2 percent from a 0.5 percent fall in March.

In the 12 months to April, core CPI rose 1.3 percent after increasing 1.2 percent in March. Fed officials, however, would like to see that closer to 2 percent.

Overall consumer prices rose 3.2 percent year-on-year after rising 2.7 percent in March.