CONSUMER PRICES FALL: U. S. consumer prices declined 0.2 percent in March following a 0.7 percent rise in February as the cost of gas fell sharply and food prices were unchanged.

DETAILS: The Labor Department said Tuesday that gasoline prices fell 4.4 percent, reversing part of February's 9.1 percent gain. Clothing prices dropped 1 percent, the most in 12 years. Furniture prices dropped 0.3 percent.

TAKEAWAY: It is the latest evidence that the sluggish economy is keeping inflation in check. Except for February's increase, consumer prices have declined or been unchanged in four of the past five months. In the past year, consumer prices have risen 1.5 percent. That's the smallest yearly increase in the past eight months.

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