NEW YORK (AP) _ Treasury bond prices briefly fell today after the government reported inflation figures that were higher than expected, but then buyers pulled the market out of its slump.

The price of the Treasury's bellwether 30-year bond was up 9-32 point, or $2.81 per $1,000 in face amount, around midday. Its yield, which falls when prices rise, was 7.73 percent, down from 7.75 percent late Thursday.

Consumer prices rose 0.4 percent last month, the Labor Department reported. The rise in the widely watched Consumer Price Index was blamed on a big jump in food costs that partly reflected the whitefly infestation in California and higher gasoline costs.

Most economists had expected the index to go up about 0.3 percent.

News of an increase in inflation often depresses bond prices because inflation erodes the value of the fixed-return securities.

But ''there was some good buying going on'' as bond prices fell, leading to their rebound, said Steven R. Ricchiuto, chief economist at Barclays de Zoete Wedd Securities Inc.

Another factor boosting bond prices was the continuing concern that the Treasury Department may carry through with a proposal to limit its sale of 30- year bonds as a way of depressing interest rates, Ricchiuto said.

Fewer such bonds on the market would tend to boost their price.

In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, short-term maturities were unchanged to 1-32 point lower, intermediate maturities were 1-32 point lower to 7-32 point higher, and long-term issues were up 3-16 point to 9-32 point, the Telerate Inc. financial information service reported.

The movement of a point equals a change of $10 in the price of a bond with a $1,000 face value.

The Lehman Brothers Daily Treasury Bond Index, which measures price movements on all outstanding Treasury issues with maturities of a year or longer, was down 0.33 to 1,239.40.

Yields on three-month Treasury bills fell to 4.23 percent as the discount fell 2 basis points to 4.13 percent. Yields on six-month bills fell to 4.29 percent as the discount fell 2 basis points to 4.14 percent. Yields on one- year bills auctioned Thursday fell to 4.40 percent as the discount fell 1 basis point to 4.19 percent.

A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point. The yield is the annualized return on an investment in a Treasury bill. The discount is the percentage that bills are selling below the face value, paid at maturity.

The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, was 4 7-16 percent, down from 4 5/8 late Thursday.