Prices still in line with Fed target
A sharp increase in gas prices propelled a measure of consumer costs in the United States in February by the most in more than three years. But outside the gain in fuel, inflation was mostly modest.
The Labor Department said Friday that consumer prices increased a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent last month from January, the biggest rise since June 2009. Still, three-fourths of the increase reflected a 9.1 percent surge in gas prices.
Excluding volatile food and energy costs, core inflation rose just 0.2 percent in February. Over the last 12 months, core prices have risen just 2 percent.
Euro inflation drops
The euro area inflation rate fell for a second month in February, led by price declines in the telecommunications industry.
Annual consumer price growth slowed to 1.8 percent from 2 percent in January, in line with an initial estimate on March 1, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said Friday. In the month, prices rose 0.4 percent. The annual core inflation rate, excluding volatile costs such as energy, alcohol and tobacco, held at 1.3 percent.
The European Central Bank last week maintained its benchmark interest rate at 0.75 percent as president Mario Draghi described the inflation outlook as “broadly balanced.”
Consumer confidence takes hit
Confidence among American consumers unexpectedly slumped in March, which may signal a cooling in spending, the biggest part of the economy.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary sentiment index for March fell to 71.8, the lowest level since December 2011, from 77.6 in February. The gauge was projected to increase to 78, according to the median estimate of 67 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
More from Madoff
Customers of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities Inc. are in line to receive an additional distribution of $505 million.
The distribution will be the third made by trustee Irving Picard since the world’s largest-ever Ponzi scheme surfaced in late 2008. The bankruptcy judge in New York approved the new distribution on March 13. There were two objections.
The new distribution will bring the total so far to more than $5.4 billion, almost 43 percent of customers’ claims.
| Star news services