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US inflation edges higher in April

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The CPI showed rising prices for shelter, tobacco, energy and food, according to the Labor Department.

[WASHINGTON] US inflation edged higher in April, reversing the previous month's surprise drop, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The Consumer Price Index, which tracks changes in the costs of goods and services purchased by households, rose 0.2 per cent in April after March's 0.3 per cent decline, matching analyst expectations.

Data showed that retail sales in the world's biggest economy rebounded strongly last month, with consumers buying cars and driving up sales at gas stations.

The CPI showed rising prices for shelter, tobacco, energy and food, according to the Labor Department. Excluding the more volatile categories of food and fuel, the "core" index rose a more modest 0.1 per cent.

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Meanwhile, online retailers continued to see soaring business, according to separate figures released on Friday by the Commerce Department.

The sector once again was among the healthiest in the economy, with sales seeing their biggest gain in five months at 1.4 per cent, up nearly 12 per cent over the same month last year.

The new economic data suggested that weak figures in the first quarter and a sluggish start to the year may have been only blips on the radar - buttressing plans by the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates in 2017.

On a yearly basis, signs of increased pressures were more muted, with inflation measures trending downward since the start of the year.

The CPI rose 2.2 per cent for the 12 months ending in April, down from the 2.4 recorded in March. The 12-month gain in the core index was also 1.9 per cent, falling a tenth of below the Fed's two per cent target.

Meanwhile, retail spending was again on the rise.

American consumers plunked down a total of US$474.9 billion, up 0.4 per cent, after March's upward revised figure of 0.1 per cent - putting April a solid 4.5 per cent above the same month last year.

The result was two tenths of a point below what analysts had been expecting after a sluggish start to the year, when delayed income tax refunds and warmer weather helped constrain spending in some areas.

Excluding the more volatile categories of food and cars, sales rose 0.3 per cent, the same as March.

Health and personal care stores saw their biggest gain in 14 months, adding 0.8 per cent. Auto sales rose 0.7 per cent and electronics and appliance retailers rose by 1.3 per cent.

Gas station sales grew at a more modest 0.2 per cent but were nevertheless up 12.3 per cent over April of 2016.

AFP

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