If the Federal Reserve ever wanted to see some inflation — as they keep claiming (careful what you wish for) — the Labor Department just gave a first piece of candy to a child. The Producer Price Index (PPI) for the month of March came in with a big headline reading of 0.5%, and the core reading (ex-food and energy) came in with a gain of 0.6%.
On the headline PPI, Bloomberg and Dow Jones were both expecting only a 0.1% gain. Both consensus readings were also at 0.2% on the core PPI.
Producer prices for final demand rose by 1.4%, the largest gain in seven months. The big gain was in the price of services, up 7% — the largest gain in more than four years. Trade services rose 1.4% in March, but this had been down 1% in February.
As a reminder, the PPI is considered as wholesale inflation that businesses and the government have to pay for goods and services rather than what consumers pay. It generally takes two months, or even longer, before elevated producer prices are passed directly down to the consumer level.
Also note that the former PPI reading of finished goods would have been down 0.1% sequentially and up 1.7% from a year ago.
The Federal Reserve's formal 2% price target for inflation has been missed on the downside for nearly two years now. Again, we think the people wanting inflation need to be careful what they wish for — as long as deflation is avoided.
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Filed under: Economy