Higher energy prices coming up from low levels boosted the CPI. But the trend is still soft. Overall consumer price inflation rose 0.2 percent after rebounding 0.2 percent in February. The March figure equaled analysts’ forecast for a 0.2 percent gain. Energy increased 1.1 percent after gaining 1.0 percent in February. Gasoline prices increased 3.9 percent after rebounding 2.4 percent in February after plummeting 18.7 percent in January, Food slipped 0.2 percent after rising 0.2 percent in February. Excluding food and energy, consumer price inflation posted at a 0.2 percent increase, following a 0.2 percent rise for February. Analysts forecast a 0.1 percent gain.

Within the core, along with the shelter index, a broad array of indexes rose in March, including medical care, used cars and trucks, apparel, new vehicles, household furnishings and operations, and recreation. The index for airline fares, in contrast, declined for the fourth time in the last 5 months.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the headline CPI was essentially unchanged after being down 0.1 percent in February on a year-ago basis. Excluding food and energy, the year-ago rate was 1.8 percent versus 1.7 percent February. Essentially, the trend in inflation is still sluggish and will allow the Fed to not hurry rate increases.