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US consumer prices tick up just 0.1 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cheaper energy kept U.S. consumer prices in check last month, despite a big rise in the cost of food, the latest sign that inflation is tame.

The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in February, matching January's increase. In the past 12 months, prices have risen just 1.1 percent, down from 1.6 percent in January and the smallest in five months.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.1 percent last month and 1.6 percent in the past year.

Energy prices fell 0.5 percent because gas and electricity costs fell. Clothes and used cars were also cheaper last month.

Still, consumers took a hit at the grocery store as food costs rose 0.4 percent, the most in nearly 2 { years.

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