US consumer prices have risen for the fourth consecutive month, prompting speculation that the Federal Reserve may soon raise interest rates.

The Labor Department's consumer price index -- a closely watched guide to inflation -- increased 0.5% in March, after a 0.3% rise the month before.

Excluding the volatile energy and food sectors, the CPI climbed 0.4% in March, the highest monthly gain since November 2001.

The news follows figures from the Commerce Department that show a 1.8% rise in retail sales last month -- more than double the increase predicted by analysts.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff