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US wholesale prices rebound sharply in April

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Mounting services costs drove up US wholesale inflation in April, with the annual measure hitting its fastest pace in five years, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The figures pointed to a rebound in price pressures after a 0.1 percent contraction in March, which the Federal Reserve had said was likely only transitory.

The Producer Price Index, which measures input costs from the seller’s perspective, jumped 0.5 percent in the month, three tenths of a point above an analyst forecast.

Excluding the more volatile categories of food, energy and trade services, the “core” index rose by 0.7 percent, its fastest pace on record.

Compared to April 2016, PPI was up 2.5 percent, the biggest increase since February 2012, and another in a string of consecutive records.

The core index also rose a brisk 2.1 percent year-over-year.

Two-thirds of April’s PPI rise was due to increases in services, which rose 0.4 percent for the month.

Excluding the trade, transport and warehousing categories, services prices gained 0.8 percent, an all-time record. Guest-room rentals also hit an all-time record, soaring by 8.2 percent.

Goods prices also saw gains, rising 0.5 percent for the month, with the 12-month measure holding steady at four percent.

The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate twice since December to get out in front of inflation before it accelerates.

While the central bank’s main focus is consumer prices, measured by CPI and PCE, producer price increases raise concerns about higher costs being passed on to the retail level.

However Jim O’Sullivan of High Frequency Economics also said, “The correlation between the PPI data and the more important CPI and PCE data has been relatively weak.”

Even so, Blerina Uruci of Barclays said the PPI report suggested inflation pressures would remain strong in the economy.

“The rebound across the PPI components in the April report suggest much of the weakness in the previous month is likely a blip, and we view it as a sign that the upward momentum in pipeline price pressures is sustained,” she wrote in a research note.

Wholesale costs for fresh and dry vegetables gained 28.5 percent, the fastest increase in more than four years.

Meanwhile, prices for integrated microcircuits added 3.2 percent, a record monthly increase, but costs for carbon steel scrap fell by 5.3 percent, the biggest drop since losing nine percent in October.


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