US Wholesale Prices Rose in January, Stoking Inflation Concerns

(CN) – Wholesale prices rose 0.4 percent in January, the biggest increase since November, as a big jump in energy prices offset a small decline in the cost of food, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The government said the January rise in wholesale prices, which measure the cost of goods before they reach the consumer, followed no increase at all in December and matched a 0.4 percent rise in November.

The big gains last month and in November were both driven by sharp increases in the cost of gasoline and other energy products.

Over the past 12 months, wholesale prices have risen 2.7 percent.

On Wednesday, the government reported that consumer prices rose 0.5 percent in January. Together the two reports suggest inflation may be rising after remaining flat for several years. Rising worries about inflation are largely responsible for the big retreat in U.S. stock markets earlier this month.

Investors are afraid the rising inflation pressures could inspire the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates four times this year instead of three as previously planned. A more aggressive Fed approach on interest rates is typically bad for stocks, but good for bonds.

Speaking of the Fed, in a separate report Thursday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its Empire State Manufacturing Prices-Paid Index increased 12.4 points to 48.6 in February, the highest level since 2012.

The prices received index was little changed at 21.5, which the report said, in Fed-speak, was a “level pointing to continued moderate selling price increases.”

 Another survey, released by the Philadelphia Fed, showed prices paid in that region also surging in February, reaching the highest level since May 2011.
“Input price increases picked up noticeably … the index for future prices paid stayed close to last month’s multi-year high,” the report said.


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