Consumer prices in the United States increased by nearly a half-percent last month and represented the largest 12-month gain in a year, the Commerce Department said in a monthly report Wednesday.

Prices, represented by the Consumer Price Index, rose 0.4% in February. The rise was buoyed largely by a hike in the cost of gasoline, which increased by more than 6% for the month. The energy index was up 4%.

Although the rise last month was moderate and inline with most analysts’ expectations, the 12-month period ending in February showed the largest annual rise for the CPI (1.7%) in a year — a clear signal that the economy is returning to more familiar territory after a year of interference by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The indexes for shelter, recreation, medical care and motor vehicle insurance all increased over the month,” the department noted. “The indexes for airline fares, used cars and trucks and apparel all declined in February.”

Inflation has been tepid in recent months, but is expected to rise in the coming months as price declines that were implemented early in the coronavirus pandemic go away.

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