The Fed also noted that survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations were little changed. Minutes of the March 19-20 policy meeting are due to be published later on Wednesday and will be scrutinized for more details on policymakers’ views on inflation.
The February and March PCE price data will be released on April 29. The February data was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.
Energy prices jumped 3.5 percent in March, accounting for about 60 percent of the increase in the CPI last month, after gaining 0.4 percent in February. Gasoline prices surged 6.5 percent, the biggest gain since September 2017, after rising 1.5 percent in February.
Food prices gained 0.3 percent after accelerating 0.4 percent in February. Food consumed at home increased 0.4 percent. Consumers also paid more for rent. Owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would pay to rent or receive from renting a home, increased 0.3 percent in March after a similar gain in February.
Health-care costs rebounded 0.3 percent after slipping 0.2 percent in February. There were increases in the costs of prescription medication and hospital services.
Apparel prices fell 1.9 percent, the biggest drop since January 1949, after two straight monthly gains. There were decreases in the price of used motor vehicles and trucks, airline fares and motor vehicle insurance.
The cost of new vehicles, however, rebounded 0.4 percent after declining 0.2 percent in February.