The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that producer prices for final demand goods and services rose 0.2 percent in January. This was the fastest pace in three months, and the gains were larger for goods (0.4 percent) than for services (0.1 percent). On an annualized basis, producer prices for final demand goods and services rose 1.2 percent in January, only marginally higher than the 1.1 percent pace observed in December.
Specific to final demand goods, food costs were up sharply, rising 1.0 percent for the month, ending two straight months of declines. Increased prices for vegetables, meats, seafood, and dairy products pushed food costs up in February. At the same time, energy costs rose 0.3 percent, extending the 1.5 percent increase the month before. Colder weather likely impacted this result, with energy costs lifted by higher prices for electricity, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.
Excluding energy and food, core producer prices for final demand goods rose 0.4 percent, its fastest gain in more than one year. The largest increases were seen for agricultural machinery, cosmetics, floor coverings, pharmaceuticals, and sporting and athletic goods.
Core inflation for goods and services at the final demand level remained minimal, up just 1.4 percent from January 2013 to January 2014. The significance of this figure is that remains well below the Federal Reserve’s threshold of 2 percent, allowing the Federal Open Market Committee to continue its accommodative measures to stimulate the economy. In fact, the year-over-year pace has stayed below 2 percent each month since December 2012.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.