Consumer prices rebound 0.2% in April

Consumer prices rebounded moderately in April as energy prices climbed back up after a sharp decline in March.

The Labor Department said Friday that consumer prices rose 0.2% after a 0.3% drop in March, which was the biggest fall in more than two years. Energy prices rose 1.1% after tumbling 3.2% the previous month.

Core inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.1%. Over the last 12 months, inflation is up 2.2%. Core prices have risen 1.9%.

The Federal Reserve tries to manage the economy so that annual increases in inflation are around 2%. After mostly lagging below that target since the 2007-2009 recession, inflation has accelerated recently with the unemployment rate falling to 4.4% and energy prices rebounding.

The Fed cut its key interest rate to near zero in response to the recession and kept it there for seven years to boost the economy. It is now cautiously raising rates, with three quarter-point increases since December 2015. Analysts expect another hike in June.

Gas prices, which drove down the energy category last month, rose 1.2% after declining 6.2% in March and 3% in February.

Food prices rose 0.2%, driven by the fresh vegetable category, which rose 5.1%, its biggest increase since February 2011.

The cost of cellphone plans, which contributed to last month's overall decline, fell again along with medical care, apparel, new and used vehicles and auto insurance.

On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that inflation at the wholesale level rose 0.5%, and there was some concern among economists that the sharp increase might carry over to the consumer level. But those increases were moderate and suggest that retailers have not yet passed on those costs to consumers.

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