Inflation accelerates more than expected in March as high prices persist

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Inflation accelerated in March for the third straight month, keeping prices painfully high for millions of Americans and likely delaying any interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price of everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rent, rose 0.4% in March from the previous month. Prices climbed 3.5% from the same time last year, above the 3.2% figure recorded in February. 

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Both of those figures came in higher than the 0.3% monthly increase and 3.2% headline gain forecast by LSEG economists.

Other parts of the report also pointed to stubborn price pressures within the economy. Core inflation, which exclude the more volatile measurements of food and energy, climbed 0.4%, as it did in January and February, for an annual gain of 3.8%. Those figures are also higher than estimates.

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Altogether, the report indicates that while inflation has fallen considerably from a peak of 9.1%, it remains well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

“This marks the third consecutive strong reading and means that the stalled disinflationary narrative can no longer be called a blip,” said Seema Shah, chief global strategist at Principal Asset Management.

High inflation has created severe financial pressures for most U.S. households, which are forced to pay more for everyday necessities like food and rent. The burden is disproportionately borne by low-income Americans, whose already-stretched paychecks are heavily affected by price fluctuations.

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