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Consumer prices hit 10-month high

– Higher food and gas costs pushed up U.S. consumer prices in April by the most in 10 months, evidence that inflation is ticking up from very low levels.

The consumer price index rose 0.3 percent last month after a 0.2 percent gain in March, the Labor Department said Thursday. Over the past 12 months, prices have increased 2 percent, the largest gain since July and matching the Federal Reserve’s inflation target.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.2 percent in April and have risen 1.8 percent in the past 12 months.

Food prices jumped 0.4 percent for the third straight month, driven by the largest increase in the cost of meat in 10 years. Gasoline prices rose 2.3 percent, the first increase in four months.

The cost of fruit, vegetables and dairy products also rose. A drought in California and an excessively cold winter in the Midwest have pushed up food prices this year.

Prices in other sectors also rose. Rents increased 0.3 percent last month, and the prices of new and used cars rose. Air fares jumped 2.6 percent in April, the most in more than four years. The cost of clothes, furniture and haircuts were unchanged.

The mild increases follow two years of very low inflation. Consumer prices rose just 1.5 percent in 2013, down from 1.8 percent in 2012.

Separately, the government said Wednesday the producer price index jumped in April by the most in 19 months. That index measures price changes before they reach consumers.

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