June 11, 2019 4:15 PM, EDT

Underlying US Producer Prices Rise at Slowest Pace in Year

Producer Prices Shoppers on a busy street. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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A measure of underlying U.S. producer prices rose at the slowest pace in more than a year, signaling inflation pressures remain muted and potentially reinforcing calls for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates.

Excluding food and energy, producer prices increased 2.3% in May from a year earlier — the least since January 2018 and matching forecasts — following a 2.4% gain in the prior month, a Labor Department report showed June 11. The overall producer-price index was up 1.8% from a year earlier, below projections, following a 2.2% increase.

Slower inflation would give the Fed more latitude to lower borrowing costs amid signs the economy is slowing. While the consumer price index is considered a more important indicator of inflation, analysts monitor producer prices — which cover wholesale and other business selling costs — to assess how the pressures will filter through to consumers.

Despite the lowest unemployment in 49 years and tariffs on billions in foreign goods, inflation throughout the economy has stayed relatively contained, hovering below the Fed’s target for its preferred gauge. President Donald Trump has touted the state of prices as he repeatedly pressures the central bank to cut interest rates and boost growth, tweeting June 11 before the PPI report that the Fed’s rate is too high and that “The United States has VERY LOW INFLATION, a beautiful thing!”

The June 12 CPI data will offer a fuller picture of the state of prices in May. Year-over-year core inflation is forecast to hold at 2.1% while the overall index probably eased to 1.9%. Investors see a Fed interest rate cut as likely in July after May payrolls came in below all economist estimates.