U.S. Wholesale Prices Rise 0.4% In February

Led by a surge in energy prices, U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.4% in February, the government said Tuesday as Federal Reserve policymakers met to fix interest rates. The core rate for the producer price index, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, inched up 0.1%. The core PPI is watched closely by economists for inflationary pressures. In January, the PPI had risen at the fastest pace in six years, going up 0.8%, according to the Labor Department data. The headline PPI figure for February was just over Wall Street's consensus forecast of 0.3%, but the core number was in line with predictions.

Merrill Lynch chief North America economist David Rosenberg said that after the dramatic spike seen in January's PPI, "for the time being, we can breathe a sigh of relief." But he added: "Inflation expectations are running so high that we're going to have to see a string of weak PPI numbers like this one to engender any kind of positive news on the markets."

In February, energy prices increased 1.4%, including a 5.2% rise in gasoline. Consumer food prices increased 0.8% in the month, including the largest rise in U.S. egg prices in four years. But passenger car prices dipped 0.9%, while finished capital equipment prices fell 0.2% and prices of consumer durables were down 0.5%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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