Inflation rose 2.6% last year, driven by energy prices

Inflation jumped in March, as prices for consumer goods, from gasoline to food, posted their biggest increase in almost nine years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday.

The Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation, increased a sharp 0.6% and jumped 2.6% over the past year, led by rising energy prices.

The seasonally adjusted 0.6% increase in March was the biggest jump since August 2012 and was driven largely by a 9.1% jump in gasoline.

The monthly and yearly figures came in slightly above economists’ expectations and are the first markers in what is likely to be a steady but expected climb in inflation, analysts said.

“The surge in inflation in March is the first meaningful wave of several that will cumulatively lift inflation in the coming months to a level not seen in many years,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors. “Even so, the coming surge shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.”

Last month, the Federal Reserve projected inflation will hit 2.4% this year, up from an earlier estimate of 1.8%, though the Federal Reserve is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate at or near zero through 2023.