WASHINGTON — The producer price index rose 1.6% in February, the largest increase in finished goods prices since a 1.9% gain in June 2009, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

Core prices that exclude food and energy goods rose 0.2%, the third consecutive rise.

The gain in producer prices was much higher than the 0.7% increase that had been projected by economists, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

However, the economists were on target with their projection for a 0.2% gain in core prices.

The 1.6% February gain in producer prices followed an unrevised 0.8% increase in January.

It was led by prices for finished energy goods and finished consumer foods, which moved up 3.3% and 3.9%, respectively.

The 3.3% increase in prices for finished energy goods was the fifth straight monthly gain and the highest since the 4.5% gain reported in January 2010.

Increases in gasoline prices, which rose 3.7%, accounted for more than 40% of the February gain.

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