U.S. producer prices increased by less than expected in February, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.
The Labor Department said its producer price index for finished goods increased by 0.4 percent, on a seasonally adjusted basis.
While that increase is bigger than the 0.1 percent increase reported for January, it still comes in below the 0.5 percent increase predicted by most economists.
The increase in producer prices was largely driven by higher prices for energy goods, which increased 1.3 percent, reversing two previous months of declining costs.
Of the energy costs, a 4.3 percent jump in the gasoline index accounted for most of the increase, with increases in residential electric power and home heating oil also playing a factor.
In contrast, the finished consumer foods index ticked down slightly, falling by 0.1 percent amid a 2.8 percent drop in the price of dairy products and a 7.3 percent drop in the costs of fresh and dry vegetables.
The "core" producer price index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, moved up 0.2 percent in February, marking the third straight monthly increase.
The increase in core prices, which followed a 0.4 percent increase in January, came in line with economist estimates.
Much of the core PPI increase can be traced to a 0.6 percent rise in the costs of pharmaceutical preparations, with a 0.5 percent increase in civilian aircraft also playing a notable role.
Compared to the same month a year ago, the headline producer price index was up by 3.3 percent in February, while the core producer price index rose at an annual rate of 3.0 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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