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Inflation Nation: Consumer Prices Jump 4.2 Percent

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Consumer prices jumped higher than expected in April, data from the Department of Labor showed Wednesday.

The Consumer Price Index climbed 4.2 percent annually in April. Compared with March, prices rose 0.8 percent.

The annual inflation figure is the largest increase since 2008. Economists had forecast a year-over-year gain of 3.6 percent and 0.2 percent for the month.

Excluding food and energy, categories that can be volatile month-to-month, “core” CPI rose 0.9 percent compared with a month ago, three times faster than the estimate. On an annual basis, core prices are up 3.0 percent, above the 2.3 percent estimated.

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The inflation numbers came in so hot for April that they exceeded the top of the range of estimates of analysts surveyed by Econoday.

The annual numbers may somewhat exaggerate inflationary pressures because of extremely weak numbers a year ago when the U.S. economy locked down in an attempt to contain the spread of covid. Officials at the Fed believe that this so-called “base effect” will last only a few months and that inflation will be transitory.

Not all economists agree. The economy is recovering more quickly than anticipated and much of the spending from the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed in March has yet to hit the economy. Pent-up consumer demand, bolstered by excess savings and direct stimulus payments, could push prices up higher than Fed officials anticipate, some analysts have warned.

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