Consumer prices
rose last month

U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in 14 months in March, but underlying inflation remained benign amid slowing domestic and global economic growth.

The Labor Department said Wednesday its consumer price index rose 0.4 percent, boosted by increases in the costs of food, gasoline and rents. That was the biggest advance since January 2018 and followed a 0.2 percent gain in February.

In the 12 months through March, the CPI increased 1.9 percent. The CPI gained 1.5 percent through February, the smallest rise since September 2016.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI nudged up 0.1 percent, matching February’s gain. In the 12 months through March, the core CPI increased 2 percent, the smallest advance since February 2018.

Food prices rose 0.3 percent, following a 0.4 percent increase in February. Consumers also paid more for rent. Owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence — what a homeowner would pay to rent or receive from renting a home — increased 0.3 percent in March.

Health-care costs rebounded 0.3 percent after slipping 0.2 percent in February. There were increases in the costs of prescription medication and hospital services.

Apparel prices fell 1.9 percent, the biggest drop since January 1949. There were decreases in the price of used motor vehicles and trucks, airline fares and motor vehicle insurance.

The cost of new vehicles, however, went up 0.4 percent.

— Reuters

Extension sought for electric-vehicle credit

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday that would extend a lucrative tax credit for electric vehicles that could benefit companies like Tesla and General Motors.

The chances of the Senate extending the electric vehicle tax credit, which President Trump proposed rescinding in his most recent budget request, aren’t great, according to analysts.

The current $7,500-per-vehicle incentive for consumers, credited with helping establish the nascent market for electric cars, phases down once a manufacturer sells 200,000 of the vehicles.

The legislation by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) would grant automakers a $7,000 tax credit for an additional 400,000 vehicles after they reach the 200,000 vehicle cap, according to a statement from Stabenow’s office.

The bill, which also extends a credit for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for 10 years, is also being backed by Republicans Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Susan Collins (Maine).

Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.) is introducing companion legislation in the House. More than 100 House lawmakers have asked the Ways and Means Committee to extend the credit.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

A new credit card deal with American Express and rising corporate travel boosted profits for Delta Air Lines in the first quarter, a trend it predicts will continue this spring. Delta executives said Wednesday that corporate-account revenue is up 10 percent from this time last year, helping offset choppy demand from vacation travelers. That was one of several factors that pushed Delta's first-quarter profit up by 31 percent, to $730 million.

Some workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., have filed their third petition in five years to join the United Auto Workers. UAW Local 42 President Steven Cochran told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the election petition was filed Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board. The petition said at least 30 percent of 1,709 employees who make up the proposed election unit have turned over cards seeking representation. It asks for an election on April 29 and 30. Volkswagen factory officials say they "remain neutral on this topic." Plant spokeswoman Amanda Plecas said the petition is being reviewed.

Amazon, facing backlash from critics who say cashless stores discriminate against the poor, will soon accept cash at all its stores. The online shopping giant has more than 30 stores that don't accept cash, including its book shops and Amazon Go convenience stores. Amazon confirmed it is working to accept cash but wouldn't say when that would happen. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

— From wire reports

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Labor Department releases the producer price index for March.

10 a.m.: Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.