The falling price of energy drove US consumer inflation in February to its slowest annual pace more than two years, according to government data released today. 

The dip in the consumer price index marked the seventh decline in a row, and supports the Federal Reserve's recent decision to pause interest rate increases until further notice. 

However, weakening fuel prices masked increases in the costs for food and shelter, medical care, according to the Labor Department report. 

Compared to February of last year, CPI rose 1.5%, down from 1.6% in January, driven by a 5% drop in energy, which was the largest decline in two and a half years. 

The annual inflation measure has been steadily declining since July.  

Excluding the volatile food and fuel categories, CPI slowed to 2.1%, after three months of 2.2% gains.

Prescription drug costs fell 1.2% compared to February 2018, offsetting rising costs of hospital services and doctors' fees, along with a 3.4% jump in shelter, up from 3.2% in January.

Monthly inflation was 0.2% compared last month to January after being flat for three months, matching economists' expectations. 

But excluding food and fuel costs, the core CPI fell short of a forecasts, rising only 0.1%.

The US Fed raised interest rates four times last year but since December policymakers have stressed that they will be "patient" before hiking rates again – noting increasing signs of an economic slowdown worldwide and in the US with few signs of accelerating inflation.