Wholesale Prices Fell in December on Cheaper Prices for Services

(CN) — Wholesale prices fell a slight 0.1 percent in December, mostly due to lower prices for services, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The government’s latest Producer Price Index, the measure of the cost of goods before they reach the consumer, attributed most of the December decline to a 0.2 percent decrease in so-called “final demand services.”

This category of the Labor Department’s analysis measures the price change for all services other than those related to trade or transportation.

The government said index for final demand goods was unchanged in December. This category measures the price change for both unprocessed and processed goods.

Fresh fruit sold to consumers and computers sold as capital investment are examples of transactions included in the final demand goods price index.

The Labor Department said wholesale prices for less the volatile foods, energy, and trade services categories edged up 0.1 percent in December after rising 0.4 percent in November.

In 2017, the index for goods less foods, energy, and trade services climbed 2.3 percent following a 1.8-percent advance in 2016.

The figures suggest inflation pressures have cooled at the wholesale level. Wholesale prices had risen 0.4 percent in three of the past four months, mostly because of much higher energy costs. In December, energy prices were flat while food costs fell 0.7 percent.

With unemployment at a low 4.1 percent and the economy expanding, economists are closely monitoring price indexes for any signs of inflation.

Separately, the Labor Department said that applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, rose by 11,000 last week to a still-low 261,000.

While it was the highest level in 15 weeks, applications for jobless benefits still remain at levels indicating a healthy labor market.

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