US consumer prices fell by the most in more than five years in March and further decreases are likely as the novel coronavirus outbreak suppresses demand for some goods and services, offsetting price increases related to shortages resulting from disruptions to the supply chain.

With the country virtually at a stand-still and the economy rapidly contracting as state and local governments adopt stiff measures to control the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, economists are predicting a period of disinflation or even outright deflation.

“The big concern right now is deflation,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh. “Deflation is likely to take hold over the next few months as businesses slash prices in response to much lower demand from the coronavirus outbreak and associated restrictions on movement.”

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