WASHINGTON (AP) _ Wholesale prices shot up by 1.5 percent in March, reflecting a run-up in energy costs stoked by war tensions and sharply higher prices for cars and clothes.

The big jump in the Producer Price Index, which measures prices paid to factories, farmers and other producers, came on top of a sharp 1 percent surge in February, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The increase in wholesale prices in March was much bigger than the modest 0.3 percent advance economists were predicting and may raise new concerns over whether inflation may be creeping back to life.

A long period of tame inflation has allowed the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at a 41-year low of 1.25 percent, in a bid to help energize the listless economy.