Rise in Wholesale Prices Tied to Surge in Gas Costs

(CN) – Wholesale prices in the U.S. edged up 0.6% in March on rising gas and electricity costs, but inflation pressures remain in check.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The producer price index, which measures costs before goods reach consumers, increased 2.2% compared with a year earlier. The 0.6% monthly increase, the biggest gain since last October, was above economists’ predictions of 0.3%.

But not counting the always volatile food and energy categories, core wholesale prices stayed flat in March and are up 2% from a year earlier.

The figures reported by the Labor Department on Thursday reflect last month’s similar spike in consumer prices and show that price increases are in line with the Federal Reserve’s 2% annual inflation target. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank can be “patient” with raising interest rates this year while inflation pressures are being kept in check.

The government said consumer gas prices surged 6.5% last month after a modest 1.5% gain in February, while electricity costs saw a monthly gain of 0.4% after decreases in the prior two months.

Wholesale energy prices shot up 5.6% in March, driven by a 16% increase in gasoline costs for producers. Meanwhile, wholesale food prices ticked up 0.3% last month, negating a 0.3% drop in February.

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