Consumer prices recorded their largest increase in nearly four years in February as the cost of gasoline surged, but there was little sign of a broad pickup in inflation to trouble the Federal Reserve.

Other data on Friday showed factory activity in New York state moderated in March. That suggests overall manufacturing remained on a steady growth path, which should give the central bank no reason to scale back monetary support.

"I have my doubts whether the Fed is that concerned about inflation right now. The way the data has been playing out it gives them a free hand to be extremely aggressive to bring down unemployment," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.