By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- US consumer prices were unchanged in July from June, as a small drop in energy costs offset slightly higher food prices. The consumer price index hasn't changed since March, evidence that the weak economy is keeping inflation in check.
The Labor Department says core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, ticked up 0.1 percent last month. More expensive medical costs, clothing and rents pushed up core prices.
Prices increased 1.4 percent in the 12 months ending in July. That's down from 1.7 percent in June and is the smallest yearly increase in 20 months. Core prices have increased 2.1 percent in the past year, down from a 2.2 percent pace in June.
Mild inflation gives the Federal Reserve more leeway to take steps to boost growth.