The Labor Department said on Friday its producer price index for
final demand slipped 0.2 percent after advancing in April by 0.6
percent, which was the largest gain in 1-1/2 years.
Economists, who had expected producer prices to edge up, saw the
decline as a correction after gains in March and April, and said it
did not change their view that prices were firming.
"The net result is a pick-up. The net strengthening makes the modest
acceleration in the more important consumer inflation measures more
credible," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High
Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.
The government revamped the PPI series at the start of the year to
include services and construction. Big swings in prices received for
trade services have injected volatility into the series, making it
hard to get a good read on inflation.
The overall inflation backdrop remains generally tame, with the main
gauge watched by the Federal Reserve continuing to run below the
U.S. central bank's 2 percent target.
Still, key consumer inflation measures pushed up in April and are
expected to continue edging higher as the labor market tightens and
the economy regains momentum. That should position the Fed to raise
interest rates in the second half of 2015.
MOVING TOWARDS TARGET
The U.S. central bank, which is already scaling back the amount of
money it is injecting into the economy through monthly bond
purchases, has kept overnight lending rates near zero since December
2008. Fed officials meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to assess the
economy's health and their monetary policy stance.
"They will probably say inflation is trending toward its 2 percent
goal," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St.
A separate report showed consumer sentiment slipped slightly in
early June. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer
sentiment index was at 81.2 from 81.9 in May.
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The report offered a mixed reading on the outlook for prices.
Households' prediction of inflation a year out fell to a six month
low of 3.0 percent from 3.3 percent in June, but the five-year
projection ticked up to 2.9 percent from 2.8 percent.
Producer inflation in May was depressed by broad price declines at
the factory gate, while wholesale food prices snapped four
consecutive months of increases.
There were also declines in the prices of trade services, a gauge of
retailers' and wholesalers' margins.
And while wholesale gasoline prices fell last month, economists
cautioned increases were in the cards because of the unrest in Iraq.
A recent spike in the price of oil "should filter through to the
economy over the next several months, especially if the sectarian
violence (in Iraq) continues," said Jay Morelock, an economist at
FTN Financial in New York.
In the 12 months through May, prices received by the nation's farms,
factories and refineries rose 2.0 percent, moderating from April's
2.1 percent gain.
Producer prices excluding food, energy and trade services were flat
after advancing 0.3 percent the prior month.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Richard Leong
in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Meredith Mazzilli)
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