August 9, 2018 12:45 PM, EDT

US July Wholesale Prices Stagnated as Service Costs Fell

Prices scanned in a wholesale warehouse Getty Images

U.S. wholesale prices were unchanged in July as costs for services fell for the first time this year, a Labor Department report showed Aug. 9.

The producer-price index was unchanged month-to-month (an estimated 0.2% increase) after 0.3% gain the previous month. But PPI rose 3.3% from a year earlier (estimated 3.4% increase) after 3.4% gain in the prior 12-month period.

Excluding food and energy, core gauge increased 0.1% month-over-month (an estimated 0.2% increase) and was up 2.7% year-over-year (an estimated 2.8% gain).

PPI excluding food, energy and trade services, a measure some economists prefer because it strips out the most volatile components, rose 2.8% year-over-year after a 2.7% gain.

The figures, which measure wholesale and other selling prices at businesses, indicate price pressures in the production pipeline were fairly contained at the start of the second half of 2018. While U.S. demand is rising, there’s concern about higher materials costs and persistent uncertainty as the Trump administration imposes tariffs and other nations including China retaliate.

The cost of goods rose 0.1% from June, bringing the annual increase to 4.5% — the biggest gain since December 2011, the report showed. Services prices decreased 0.1% from the prior month, reflecting lower margins at wholesalers and retailers. Margins for fuels and lubricants retailing dropped 12.7%, while cost gauges for machinery and equipment parts wholesaling, hospital outpatient care and airline passenger services also decreased.

While the consumer price index due Aug. 10 is considered a more important indicator of inflation, data on producer prices help provide insights into the direction of input costs that businesses are facing.

The report contained other details as well.

Excluding the volatile categories of food, energy and trade services, producer costs increased 0.3 from June, similar to the prior month.

Energy prices decreased 0.5% from the prior month while food costs fell 0.1% after a 1.1% drop the prior month.

Prices for final demand trade services, which measure margins received by wholesalers and retailers, fell 0.8%.

With assistance by Jordan Yadoo