( dpa ) - US consumer prices rose 0.3 per cent in March from the previous month, driven by higher food and fuel expenses that indicate Americans will spend less on other goods, the Labour Department said Wednesday.
There had been no change from January to February.
So-called core prices, which exclude food and energy, increased 0.2 per cent, also after no change in February.
Higher priced fuel and food, along with falling home values, have forced consumers to tighten their belts, eating into the 70 per cent of the nation's economy supported by their spending.
Bankruptcy filings by consumers and businesses in the United States climbed by 38 per cent to 850,912 in 2007, the Administrative Office of US Courts said Tuesday.
Last week, the International Monetary Fund said it expected the US to enter a recession this year.
The US central bank is due to meet later this month, and is widely expected to again lower the benchmark interest rate from its current 2.25 per cent. The Federal Reserve has already lopped off 2 per cent from the rate since year's begin.
"Their primary focus has to be on the downside risk to growth," Brian Bethune, director of financial economics at Global Insight Inc, in Lexington, Massachusetts, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg financial news service. "There is very little ability for companies to pass on price increases."
The Commerce Department reported separately that housing starts in the US dropped twice as much as forecast in March to a 17-year low. Work began on 947,000 homes at an annual rate, down 11.9 per cent from February and the fewest since March 1991.