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US CONSUMER PRICES ROSE JUST 0.2 PERCENT IN MARCH

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 06:41 Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lower U.S. gasoline prices kept consumer inflation in check last month, helping offset higher costs for food and clothing.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, after scant 0.1 percent increases the previous two months. Prices have risen just 1.5 percent year over year. That remains well below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target for inflation.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices increased 0.2 percent in March and 1.7 percent in the past year.

Prices at the gas pump tumbled 1.7 percent in March, lowering costs for the entire energy category.

But food prices jumped 0.4 percent, led by increases in eggs, milk, butter, oranges, pork chops, ground beef and poultry. Prices for clothing, used cars and cable television also rose.

Overall, signs point to continued low inflation. Sluggish growth and a tough job market have limited price increases, making it harder for retailers and other businesses to charge more.

Consumer prices rose just 1.5 percent for all of 2013, down from 1.8 percent in 2012.

Though shoppers welcome lower prices, super-low inflation can stall economic growth. Lower prices encourage consumers to delay purchases. Extremely low inflation can also raise inflation-adjusted interest rates, thereby discouraging borrowing.

Still, low inflation has enabled the Fed to pursue extraordinary stimulus programs to try to boost economic growth.

The Fed is now trying to unwind some of that stimulus. It plans to buy $55 billion in bonds this month, down from $85 billion in March of last year. The bond purchases are intended to lower long-term rates, which can spur borrowing and spending.

Despite scaling back its purchases, Fed officials have expressed concern about inflation running below their target. As a result, the Fed is prepared to hold shorter-term rates near zero even if unemployment falls by roughly a percentage point from its current level of 6.7 percent. This suggests that the Fed might not raise rates until the middle of 2015.

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Missouri Man Pleads Guilty To Child Porn Charges

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 08:38 Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A southwest Missouri man has admitted that he owned hundreds of images of child pornography.
Fifty-three-year-old James Harrison of West Plains pleaded guilty Monday to receiving and distributing child pornography over the Internet.
 
Prosecutors say they found 474 child pornography videos and 560 images of child pornography on Harrison's computers and digital media at his home.
The U.S. Attorney's office says in a news release that the victims ranged in age from 3 to 13 or 14.
 
Harrison faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, with the possibility of 20 years, plus a fine up to $250,000. No sentencing date has been set.
 
   No charges will be filed against a semi driver who struck and killed a man along Interstate 270 early Tuesday morning.  Police say the driver stopped immediately and cooperated with authorities.  
I   nvestigators say the truck driver couldn't have avoided hitting the man.  The victim had been walking across the westbound lanes of 270 in Florissant about 2:30 a.m. when he was hit.  
   The victim's name has not been released.   Police say they aren't sure why the man was walking on the interstate.
   The accident shut down all westbound lanes for several hours. All but one lane had reopened by 7 a.m.
 
   
 

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