American consumers paid slightly less for goods and services in April than they did in March.
The U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday that the government's key measure of inflation ? the Consumer Price Index ? fell one-tenth of a percent in April, led by lower prices for energy and housing.
This is the first time the monthly measure of inflation has fallen since March 2009. Over the past year, prices have risen 2.2 percent, the smallest 12-month gain in four decades.
The data eases fears that U.S. government programs to spark economic activity would push prices higher.
With inflation tame for the time being, the U.S. central bank can continue its attempts to stimulate the U.S. economy by holding interest rates at low levels.
A separate report Wednesday from a trade group representing the home loan industry finds many U.S. homeowners are still struggling.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said more than one out of every ten homeowners has missed at least one loan payment during the first three months of 2010. That is an increase over the last three months of 2009 and higher than at the same time last year.
The report also said more than 4.6 percent of American homeowners were in foreclosure for the January to March period, also a record.
In foreclosure, the home loan provider seizes the property because the owner can no longer pay back the loan.
Economists look at housing data because severe problems in the U.S. housing market played a major role in sparking the economic crisis.