US consumer prices in January rose at their fastest pace in nearly four years, a fresh sign that a pickup in inflation may be approaching, Labor Department figures showed Wednesday. The consumer price index showed a 0.6 per cent gain for the month, the third consecutive monthly acceleration and the largest increase since February 2013. January also saw its largest 12-month CPI increase in nearly five years, rising 2.5 per cent over January 2016. Even excluding the more volatile categories of food and energy, prices were still up by almost as much at 2.3 per cent. The new figures may help persuade US central bankers to tighten monetary policy more quickly this year after a decade of near-zero interest rates. According to figures released Tuesday by the Labor Department, US wholesale inflation, or prices seen from the seller’s perspective, likewise saw their largest monthly gain in more than four years. Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, said in congressional testimony on Tuesday that rate hikes were on the horizon and could come at any time. Yellen’s words affirmed the belief among analysts and market players that another increase could happen as soon as the next meeting of central bankers on March 14 and 15.