June 13th, 2024

US producer prices rose 2.1% from last year, most since April, as inflation remains stubborn

By Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press on April 11, 2024.

FILE - A man walks past a tanker at a Chevron gas station in San Francisco, Oct. 23, 2023. On Thursday, April 11, 2024, the Labor Department releases producer prices data for March. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. producer prices rose in March from a year earlier at the fastest pace in nearly a year, offering more evidence that progress against inflation may have stalled this year and raising doubts about the timing of any interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department said Thursday that its producer price index – which measures inflationary pressure before it reaches consumers – rose 2.1% last month from March 2023 , biggest year-over-year jump since April 2023. Compared to February, though, wholesale prices were up just 0.2%, down from a 0.6% gain in February.

Stripping out volatile food and energy prices, so-called core wholesale prices were up 0.2% last month from February and 2.4% from March 2023. The year-over-year increase in core producer prices was the most since August.

In the face of aggressive Fed rate hikes, inflation had fallen steadily after peaking in mid-2022. But the improvements have lately proven harder to come by.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that its consumer price index was up 3.5% last month from a year earlier, the second straight increase in year-over-year inflation, which remains stuck well above the Fed’s 2% target. Consumer prices were up 0.4% last month from February, matching the January increase. They haven’t fallen on a month-over-month basis since October.

Combating a resurgence of inflation that began in the spring of 2021, the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate 11 times between March 2022 and July 2023, lifting it to a 23-year high. The central bank has signaled that it expects to cut rates three times this year – a reversal in policy that has been eagerly awaited on Wall Street. But inflation’s recent stubbornness has cast doubt on when the rate cuts will start and whether the Fed will really manage to squeeze in three of them this year.

Wall Street investors had originally hoped to see the first rate cut in March. But that didn’t happen, and the inflation numbers have plateaued. Now a majority of investors don’t expect a rate cut until the Fed’s September meeting, according to CME’s FedWatch tool.

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