Despite the first rise in gasoline costs since last summer, U.S. producer prices fell in February for the fourth straight month, mainly because of a sharp drop in volatile category of retail trade margins. The producer price index declined by a seasonally adjusted 0.5%, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had predicted a 0.4% increase. Wholesale gas prices climbed 1.5% in February, the biggest increase since last June. Yet food prices retreated 1.6% to mark the biggest pullback in almost two years. Trade prices sank a record 1.5%. Excluding the volatile categories of trade, food and energy, core prices were flat on the month. Over the past year overall producer prices have fallen by 0.6%, the first 12-month decline on record. The core rate has risen a meager 0.7% in the same span.
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