Finance

Wholesale prices rose 0.3% in November, more than expected, despite hopes that inflation is cooling

Wholesale prices rose more than expected in November, dampening hopes that inflation could be headed lower, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The producer price index, a measure of what companies get for their products in the pipeline, increased 0.3% for the month and 7.4% from a year ago. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for a 0.2% gain.

Excluding food and energy, core PPI was up 0.4%, also against a 0.2% estimate.

Stocks fell sharply following the report, with futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average off more than 150 points after previously indicating a positive open on Wall Street. Treasury yields moved higher.

The hot inflation data keeps the Federal Reserve on track for another interest rate increase next week, likely a 0.5% hike that would push benchmark borrowing rates to a target range of 4.25%-4.5%. Policymakers have been pushing rates higher in an effort to quell stubborn inflation that has emerged over the past 18 months after being mostly dormant for more than a decade.

The release comes amid other signs that price increases at least were decelerating from a pace that had put inflation at its highest level in more than 40 years. However, the data Friday, which tends to be a leading indicator of underlying price pressures, shows that shaking off inflation could be a long slog.

This was the third month in a row that headline PPI increased 0.3%. On an annual basis, the increase represents a decline from the 11.7% peak hit in March, but is still well ahead of the pre-pandemic pace at least going back to 2010.

The increase came despite a 3.3% decline in final demand energy costs. That was offset by an identical 3.3% increase in the food index. The trade index rose 0.7%, while transportation and warehousing fell 0.9%.

Excluding food, energy and trade services, PPI increased 0.3% from a month ago and was up 4.9% on an annual basis, the lowest since April 2021.

Services inflation accelerated for the month, rising 0.4% after being up just 0.1% the previous month. One-third of that gain came from the financial services industry, where prices surged 11.3%. That was offset somewhat by a sharp decline in passenger transportation costs, which fell 5.6%.

On the goods side, the index rose just 0.1%, steep decline from its 0.6% October gain. That modest gain came despite a 38.1% acceleration in prices for fresh and dry vegetables. Prices moved higher across multiple food categories even as the gasoline index tumbled 6%.

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