Jump in Wholesale Prices Tied to Higher Gas Costs

Granny Smith apples are floated toward sorters to ready them for shipping at a packing plant in Yakima, Wash., on Oct. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

(CN) – Mirroring last month’s boost in consumer prices, U.S. wholesale prices also increased 0.4% in October, driven up by rising gasoline costs.

The government’s producer price index, which measures inflation before it reaches the consumer marketplace, is up 1.1% from this time last year. The increase from September to October is the largest monthly gain since April.

Excluding the always volatile food, energy and trade services categories, core wholesale prices rose just 0.1% in October and 1.5% from a year ago, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday.

Wholesale energy prices shot up 2.8% last month, pushed higher by a 7.3% increase in gasoline costs for producers. Meanwhile, wholesale food prices went up 1.3%.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported that the consumer price index, another measure of inflation that tracks changes in what Americans pay for a range of products, also grew by 0.4% in October. The increase was driven largely by a 3.7% boost in consumer gas prices.

Consumer inflation is up 1.8% from a year ago, which falls below the Federal Reserve’s 2% annual inflation target.

Not counting food and energy costs, core consumer prices increased by a more modest 0.2% last month, and grew by 2.3% over the past year.

The Fed has cut its key interest rate three times this year because of the low inflation pressures and economic uncertainty based on factors like President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, which has gone on for over a year.

However, economists do not expect the central bank to cut rates a fourth time this year.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated Wednesday that the benchmark short-term rate will likely remain in the range of 1.5% and 1.75% as long as economic growth stays at its current level.

“Looking ahead, my colleagues and I see a sustained expansion of economic activity, a strong labor market, and inflation near our symmetric 2% objective as most likely,” Powell told lawmakers on the Joint Economic Committee.

The U.S. economy entered its 11th consecutive year of growth this summer, the longest streak on record.

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