U.S. Producer Prices Fall for First Time Since 2016

By Josh Mitchell and Sharon Nunn Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. producer prices fell in December for the first time in more than a year, suggesting inflation remains subdued despite a steady economy.

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The producer-price index, a measure of the prices businesses fetched for their goods and services, fell 0.1% in December from a month earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday. That marked the first decline since August 2016.

Prices fell broadly. Excluding volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices also fell 0.1%.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected both overall and core prices to climb 0.2% last month.

Economists track producer prices for early signs of where consumer prices--the main gauge of inflation--are headed. Inflation has been modest throughout much of the expansion, though there have been recent signs of a pickup. It's not clear whether December's decline in producer prices is a temporary blip or the start of a trend.

More broadly, producer prices have risen slowly but steadily. Producer prices rose 2.6% in December compared to a year earlier, the largest calendar-year increase since 2011. Core prices climbed 2.3% last year.

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The Labor Department said the December decline in prices owed largely to lower prices for services, including for car fuels, airline travel, and apparel retailing.

The Labor Department's producer price index report can be accessed at: http://www.bls.gov/ppi

Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com and Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 11, 2018 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)