WASHINGTON -- The Labor Department reported in its Consumer Price Index that food and beverage prices rose 0.2% in February, following a 0.4% increase in January.
for food at home also rose 0.1% in February, following a 0.5% rise in January. The deceleration in prices was largely due to a sharp downturn in prices for fruits and vegetables, which declined 1.1% in February, following a 2.2% increase in January.
According to Labor analysts, a 3.4% decline in the price for fresh vegetables "more than offset" a 0.6% increase in the price index for fresh fruits. The index for processed fruits and vegetables declined 0.3%.
Cereal and bakery products prices also dropped in February -- down 0.4% after increasing 0.8% in January. Dairy product prices continued to advance in February, but by less than in recent months -- up 0.7% in February after increasing 2.3% in January.
Prices for beef and veal, fish and seafood and pork, each of which declined by at least 1% in January, increased 1.3%, 1.3% and 1.4% respectively in February.
Poultry prices declined for the fourth consecutive month, down 0.7% in February.
February retail prices for all consumer goods rose 0.1% from January, the same as in each of the preceding two months. Against a year ago, the CPI was up 1.6%.
"Overall this was a very good inflation report," said Larry Horowitz, senior economist, Primark Decision Economics, Boston. "There is almost no inflation evident in this economy still."
But economists said low prices may not be around for long.
Stephen Thurman, deputy chief economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, predicted a slight increase in inflation this year, which he said could increase all retail prices.
Horowitz said a possible increase in oil prices in April will cause inflation that in turn will raise production and operating costs.