C.P.I. for food and beverages rises 0.9% in March

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.9% in March, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor said. The March level of 205.4 was 2.8% higher than in March 2006.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the C.P.I. increased 0.6% in March, following up a 0.4% advance in February. Within the overall C.P.I., energy costs, which advanced 0.9% in February, rose 5.9% in March. Within energy, the index for petroleum-based energy rose 10.1% while the index for natural gas and electricity increased 1.3%.

The index for food and beverages was 200.8 in March, up 0.3% from 200.2 in February. The index for food at home also rose, climbing 0.4% to 198.6. Grocery store foods rose less in March, reflecting a downturn in the index for fruits and vegetables.

The C.P.I. for fruits and vegetables, which registered the largest gain among grocery store food products in January and February behind weather-related factors, fell 1.4% in March to 263.7.

The indexes for fresh fruits and fresh vegetables declined 2.3% and 1.2%, respectively, while the index for processed fruits and vegetables was virtually unchanged, the B.L.S. said.

A month after gaining 3.3%, the index for cereals and bakery products again fell back, easing 0.3% to 218.5.

The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs was 192.5, up 1.1% from February. Prices for beef, pork, poultry and other meats all registered gains ranging between 1% and 2%.

The index for dairy products rose 1.3% to 185.5, reflecting large increases in prices for cheese and ice cream.

The indexes for nonalcoholic beverages climbed 1.7%, largely reflecting a 2.8% increase in the index for carbonated beverages. The index for food at home increased 0.2%.

The other two components of the food and beverage index — food away from home and alcoholic beverages — increased 0.1% and 0.6%, respectively, in March, B.L.S. said.

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