Cheaper gasoline restrains US consumer prices

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U.S. consumer prices were unchanged for a third straight month in January, leading to the smallest annual increase in inflation in more than 1-1/2 years, which could allow the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates steady for a while.

The Labor Department said on Wednesday its Consumer Price Index last month was held down by cheaper gasoline, which offset increases in the cost of food and rents.

In the 12 months through January, the CPI rose 1.6 percent, the smallest gain since June 2017. The CPI increased 1.9 percent on a year-on-year basis in December.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI gained 0.2 percent, rising by the same margin for a fifth straight month. In the 12 months through January, the so-called core CPI rose 2.2 percent for a third straight month.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI edging up 0.1 percent in

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