For the first time in five months, consumer prices held steady in February, led by cheaper energy prices, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Excluding food and energy prices, which dropped by 0.5 percent, so-called core consumer prices were unchanged after rising by 0.3 percent in January.

While cheaper prices were reported for clothing and transportation, prices for housing, medical care and recreation continued to inch up.

Despite the declines, consumer prices were four percent higher than a year ago.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, small-business owners are planning to boost spending in the months ahead, despite record-lows in revenue and earnings growth.

"Clearly, the economy is weak compared to six months ago," William Dunkelberg, the Washington-based lobby groups chief economist, said in a statement.