PPI: U.S. wholesale inflation see largest increase in 5 months

by Ike Obudulu Posted on April 11th, 2019

Washington: A report released by the Labor Department on Thursday showed a spike in energy prices contributed to a bigger than expected increase in U.S. producer prices in the month of March.

The Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand climbed by 0.6 percent in March after inching up by 0.1 percent in February. Economists had expected prices to rise by 0.3 percent.

The bigger than expected increase in producer prices came as energy prices skyrocketed by 5.6 percent in March following a 1.8 percent jump in February. Gasoline prices soared by 16.0 percent.

The report also showed a rebound in food prices, which rose by 0.3 percent in March after falling by 0.3 percent in the previous month.

Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, also rose by 0.3 percent in March following a 0.1 percent uptick in February. Core prices had been expected to edge up by 0.2 percent.

The growth in core prices in March matched the 0.3 percent increase in prices for services, which came in unchanged in February.

A 1.1 percent spike in prices for trade services more than offset a 0.8 percent slump in prices for transportation and warehousing services.

The Labor Department said nearly a third of the increase in the index for final demand services can be traced to margins for apparel, jewelry, footwear, and accessories retailing.

Compared to the same month a year ago, producer prices were up by 2.2 percent in March, reflecting an acceleration from the 1.9 percent increase in February.

Meanwhile, the annual rate of growth in core consumer prices edged down to 2.4 percent in March from 2.5 percent in the previous month.

“The upshot is that the producer price data are consistent with consumer price inflation remaining slightly below the Fed’s target,” said Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

A separate report released by the Labor Department on Wednesday showed consumer prices in the U.S. increased by slightly more than anticipated in the month of March.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index climbed by 0.4 percent in March after edging up by 0.2 percent in February. Economists had expected the index to rise by 0.3 percent.

Consumer prices showed their biggest monthly increase in over a year, as energy prices soared by 3.5 percent in March after rising by 0.4 percent in February.

Excluding the jump in energy prices and a modest increase in food prices, core consumer prices inched up by 0.1 percent in February, matching the uptick seen in the previous month. Core prices had been expected to tick up by 0.2 percent.

Increases in prices for shelter, medical care, new vehicles, recreation, education, and tobacco were partly offset by lower prices for apparel, used cars and trucks, and airline fares.

With the monthly increase, the Labor Department said the annual rate of consumer price growth accelerated to 1.9 percent in March from 1.5 percent in February.

On the other hand, the report said the annual rate of growth in core consumer prices slowed to 2.0 percent from 2.1 percent.

How the Producer Price Index (PPI) differs from the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

The Producer Price Index (PPI) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a family of indexes that measures the average change over time in prices received (price changes) by producers for domestically produced goods, services, and construction. PPIs measure price change from the perspective of the seller. This contrasts with other measures, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPIs measure price change from the purchaser’s perspective.

While both the PPI and CPI measure price change over time for a fixed set of goods and services, they differ in two critical areas: (1) the composition of the set of goods and services, and (2) the types of prices collected for the included goods and services.

The target set of goods and services included in the PPIs is the entire marketed output of U.S. producers. The set includes both goods and services purchased by other producers as inputs to their operations or as capital investment, as well as goods and services purchased by consumers either directly from the service producer or indirectly from a retailer. Because the PPI target is the output of U.S. producers, imports are excluded. The target set of items included in the CPI is the set of goods and services purchased for consumption purposes by urban U.S. households. This set includes imports.

The price collected for an item included in the PPIs is the revenue received by its producer. Sales and excise taxes are not included in the price because they do not represent revenue to the producer. The price collected for an item included in the CPI is the out-of-pocket expenditure by a consumer for the item. Sales and excise taxes are included in the price because they are necessary expenditures by the consumer for the item.

The differences between the PPI and CPI are consistent with the different uses of the two measures. A primary use of the PPI is to deflate revenue streams in order to measure real growth in output. A primary use of the CPI is to adjust income and expenditure streams for changes in the cost of living.

The composition of items in the Finished Goods Price Index differs from that of the All Items Consumer Price Index in two major respects. First, the Finished Goods Price Index includes price changes for producers’ durable equipment, which are not purchased by typical consumers and, therefore, are not included in the CPI. Second, the All Items CPI includes services which are not reflected in the Finished Goods Price Index. An additional difference is that the Finished Goods Price Index is only available at the U.S. level, while the All Items CPI is available at the regional, metropolitan area, and U.S. levels.

Although some data users utilize the PPI as a potential indicator of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), there are many reasons why the PPI and the CPI may diverge. The scope of the personal consumption portion of the PPI includes all marketable output sold by domestic producers for households. The scope of the CPI includes goods and services provided by business or government, where explicit user charges are paid by consumers. For example, the most heavily weighted item in the CPI, owners’ equivalent rent, is excluded from the PPI. The scope of the CPI includes imports. The PPI excludes imports. The CPI only includes components of personal consumption directly paid for by the consumers, while the PPI includes components of personal consumption that may not be paid for by consumers. For example, the PPI includes medical services paid for by third parties. In contrast to CPI, PPI does not completely cover services. PPIs exclude taxes, since they do not represent producer revenue. Conversely, sales and other taxes paid by consumers are part of household expenditure and are included in the CPI. Additional technical differences between PPI and CPI also exist.

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