US inflation up again in February


WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices in the United States picked up last month, a sign that inflation remains a persistent challenge for the Federal Reserve and for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, both of which are counting on a steady easing of price pressures this year.

Prices rose 0.4% from January to February, higher than the previous month’s figure of 0.3%, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Compared with a year earlier, consumer prices rose 3.2% last month, faster than January’s 3.1% annual pace.

Excluding volatile food and energy prices, so-called “core” prices also climbed 0.4% from January to February, matching the previous month's increase and a faster pace than is consistent with the Fed’s 2% target. Core inflation is watched especially closely because it typically provides a better read of where inflation is likely headed.

Pricier gas pushed up overall inflation, with pump prices rising 3.8% just from January to February. Grocery prices were unchanged last month, though they are up 1% from a year earlier. The cost of clothing, used cars and rent also increased in February, raising the inflation figure.

Voter perceptions of inflation are sure to occupy a central place in this year’s presidential election. Polls show that many Americans blame President Joe Biden for the surge in consumer prices that began in 2021. Average prices remain far above where they stood three years ago.