The cost of consumer goods and services rose a sharp 0.4% in March, capping off a third straight month of elevated inflation readings that will make it hard for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates soon.

The increase in the consumer price index last month exceeded the 0.3% forecast of economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

The cost of energy and shelter accounted for more than half of the increase in inflation in March, the government's report showed.

The so-called core rate of inflation that strips out food and energy also increased 0.4% last month, the government said Wednesday.

The March report on consumer prices showed inflation stuck well above 3% and far from the Fed’s 2% goal.

The increase in the CPI over the past 12 months moved up to 3.5% from 3.2% and hit the highest level since September.

The core CPI climbed 3.8% in the 12 months ended in March, unchanged from the prior month.