Producer Price Index Shows Very Low Inflation

Trump, Pence, Carrier Factory Reuters

The pace of U.S. producer price gains slowed in October, indicating an economy that is still operating well-below capacity after being ravaged by lockdowns and social distancing aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic.

The producer price index for final demand climbed three-tenths of a percent last month after rising four-tenths in September. In the 12 months through October, the PPI increased half a percent, a bit higher than the four-tenths in September.

The index for final demand goods increased 0.5 percent in October, the sixth consecutive rise. Nearly three-fourths of the October advance is attributable to prices for foods, which jumped 2.4 percent. Prices for light trucks and cars declined.

The index for final demand services rose 0.2 percent in October, a slower increase than the 0.4 percent in September. Nearly 40 percent of the broad-based October increase can be traced to prices for final demand transportation and warehousing services, which moved up 1.1 percent.

Instead of measuring prices received, the “trade services” category the margins between what merchants pay for goods and what they receive for selling them on to retailers or final consumers. The index for trade services advanced two-tenths of a percent, an indication that margins are improving.

The PPI is a companion to the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index. But while the CPI measures prices paid by consumers, the PPI measures prices received by businesses for goods and services. It looks further into the supply-chain of products than just what shows up on store shelves or bills for services provided to consumers. Generally, the two measures track each other over time, although they can diverge now and again.

Economists polled by Econday had forecast the PPI would gain 0.2 percent in October and rise 0.4 percent on a year-on-year basis. On Thursday, the CPI for October showed prices were unchanged from the prior month and up 1.6 percent from 12 months ago.

Food and energy are volatile categories often excluded by economists to get a clearer look at underlying price trends. Absent these, prices rose 0.1 percent for the month and are up 1.1 percent over 12 months.

Subtracting these as well as food and energy, PPI rose 0.2 percent in the month and 0.8 percent over the 12 month period.



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