A day after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen boosted markets with her worries about slow inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released numbers on inflation at the producer level–otherwise known as wholesale inflation–that showed inflation is weak but not totally absent.
The Producer Price Index rose at a 2% annual rate in June. That was down from a 2.4% annual rate in May. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the index was up 1.9% from June 2016.
The Federal Reserve has set an inflation target of 2%. Inflation at the producer level is important because it often leads to inflation at the consumer level as price increases get passed through the economy.
The increase in producer inflation was “odd” in June, to say the least. Almost 80% of the increase in wholesale prices was due to higher prices in the service sector–and especially to a 4% increase in prices for securities trading and investment advice. Energy prices fell 0.5% from May and food prices were up 0.6%. Prices for goods, as opposed to services, edged higher by just 0.1%. That came after a drop in goods inflation in May of 0.5%.