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U.S. consumers paid more last month for food and gas, but outside those volatile categories inflation was mild.

The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.3 percent in March, below February's 0.4 percent rise.

Gas prices rose, but at a slower pace. Excluding food and gas, so-called "core" prices increased 0.2 percent in March.

Inflation has declined since last fall, when the 12-month change in consumer prices peaked at 3.9 percent. In the past 12 months, consumer prices have increased 2.7 percent.

Mild price increases leave consumers with more money to spend, which boosts economic growth. Lower inflation also gives the Federal Reserve more leeway to keep interest rates low.