The Labor Department reported Wednesday morning that the Consumer Price Index rose at a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.3% in March, meeting Wall Street expectations but signaling that upward pressure on prices could limit choices for the Federal Reserve as it tries to spur the sagging economy.

For the first quarter of the year, consumer prices were up 3.1%, compared to an increase of 4.1% for all of 2007, well above the Fed's preferred range of 2%.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index for energy index increased 1.9% in March after declining 0.5 percent in February. The index for petroleum-based energy increased 2.0% and the index for energy services rose1.9 percent.

The food index, which rose 0.4% in February, increased 0.2% in March. The index for food at home also rose 0.2%.

The index for all items less food and energy, the so-called core index, rose 0.2% in March from unchaged in February. Among increases in the components of that index were household furnishings and airline fares. The apparel index, however, declined.

Before seasonal adjustment, the CPI increased 0.9% in March to 213.528 (1982-84=100), 4.0% higher than in March 2007.