By John S. McClenahen The explanations are continuing into this week. But the fact remains: February's 0.6% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a closely watched measure of U.S. inflation, was higher than economists generally expected. Major factors: a 5.9% monthly rise in the price of energy and a 0.7% increase in food prices, show data from the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. "However, if recent oil price declines survive, as our oil analysts tentatively expect, the total CPI should ease in April and May," says Maury Harris, chief U.S. economist for UBS Warburg, LLC, New York. Meanwhile, the so-called core CPI, which does not include usually volatile price changes for energy and food, rose just 0.1% in February.