U.S. wholesale prices fell in December for the first time in more than a year on declining costs for services, a potential sign that inflation pressures are easing in the economy, a Labor Department report showed Jan. 11.
Highlights of Producer Prices for December
• Producer-price index fell 0.1% month over month (estimated 0.2% rise) after 0.4% gain the previous month; first decline since Aug. 2016.
• PPI rose 2.6% from a year earlier (estimated 3%) after 3.1% gain in prior 12-month period.
• Excluding food and energy, core gauge fell 0.1% month over month (estimated 0.2% rise); rose 2.3% year over year.
Most of the monthly drop in the PPI reflected a 0.2% decline in the cost of services, while goods prices were unchanged. A drop in the index for automotive fuel retailing was a major driver, along with falls in costs for loan services, airline passenger services and apparel retailing.
The PPI excluding food, energy, and trade services, a measure some economists prefer because it strips out the most volatile components, rose 2.3% from December 2016 following a 2.4% gain.
With inflation still below the Federal Reserve’s target, the PPI report is likely to put additional focus on Labor Department figures due Jan. 12 for consumer prices. That will give a better indication of where inflation is headed and how it will factor into the central bank’s deliberations over how fast to raise interest rates in 2018.
• Excluding the volatile categories of food, energy, and trade services, producer costs rose 0.1% from the previous month following a 0.4% increase.
• Energy prices unchanged from the prior month; food costs fell 0.7%.
• Retail margins for automotive fuels and lubricants fell 10.7%; airline passenger services were down 4.3%, the most since February 2009.
With assistance by Chris Middleton