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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale prices rose more than expected last month as food prices surged by the most in 26 years. But excluding food and energy, prices were nearly flat.
The Labor Department said the Producer Price Index rose by 0.7 percent in March, compared to analysts' forecasts of a 0.4 percent rise. A rise in gas prices also helped push up the index.
Still, there was little sign of budding inflation in the report. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, wholesale prices rose by 0.1 percent, matching analysts' expectations.
Food prices jumped by 2.4 percent in March, the most since January 1984. Vegetable prices soared by more than 49 percent, the most in 15 years. A cold snap wiped out much of Florida's tomato and other vegetable crops at the beginning of this year.
Gasoline prices rose 2.1 percent, the department said, the fifth rise in six months.
But with unemployment high and credit tight, consumers' spending power is crimped