Wholesale Prices Rise 0.1 Percent

The US Labor Department reported Thursday that wholesale prices rose only 0.1 percent in January as cheaper energy and food costs kept inflation in check. The agency’s producer price index, which tracks the prices of goods before they reach consumers, rose a tenth of a percent last month after declining the same amount in December. On a year-to-year basis, meanwhile, wholesale prices are up 4.1 percent, the smallest such increase in twelve months.

Excluding food and energy categories, which can fluctuate drastically from month to month, so-called core prices were up 0.4 percent, the biggest increase in core prices in six months. Economists view most of the increases as temporary and a sustained drastic upward trend in core prices is unlikely. The report showed that wholesale gas prices edged higher, but were offset by steep drops in prices for heating oil, natural gas and electricity, which experienced its biggest drop in price in over seven years.

A large portion of the increase in core prices was sparked by the pharmaceutical industry, though household appliance prices rose by the most in three decades, a fact economists attributed to the end of massive holiday discounts in December.