US producer prices up 0.9% in May


Higher energy costs boosted producer prices 0.9 per cent in May, but excluding volatile food and energy costs, prices paid at the factory gate were up a more moderate 0.2 per cent, the Labor Department reported today.

Economists polled ahead of the report were expecting producer prices - the prices paid by manufacturers and wholesalers - to rise 0.6 per cent and by 0.2 per cent when energy and food were stripped out.

Overall producer prices, which are a measure of prices before they reach the consumer, rose 4.1 per cent from a year ago, the biggest year-over-year increase since June 2006.

However, core producer prices were up just 1.6 per cent from a year ago, and that moderate gain will likely add some relief to Federal Reserve policy-makers as they balance the risks of inflation against economic growth.

Energy prices were up 4.1 per cent in May, the biggest monthly rise in six months. That monthly gain was partly due to a 10.2 per cent rise in petrol prices, also the biggest monthly increase since last November.

The number of workers signing up for first-time unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 311,000, the Labor Department also said in a report underscoring a steady labour market.

Economists polled ahead of the report were expecting jobless claims to inch up to 312,000 in the week ended June 9, after a previously reported 309,000 claims the prior week.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure of employment conditions, edged up to 311,250 from 307,500.