Producer Prices Increase by 0.7% in March

By Daniel Indiviglio

The Producer Price Index for finished goods increased by 0.7% in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a pretty major change from February's 0.6% decline. It's also higher than the consensus forecast of a 0.3% rise. Does this indicate that inflation is ramping up? Probably not.

First, PPI is a rather volatile statistic. The following chart from BLS demonstrates this point:

ppi 2010-03 cht1.PNG

As you can see, there's no trend that appears to be forming. Most of these big swings are driven by energy and food price, which tend to move around more than other prices. In March, they were up 2.4% and 0.7%, respectively.

It's more useful to look at the more stable core PPI, which strips out those factors. In March, core PPI was nearly flat with a 0.1% increase. That matched the increase for February and the consensus forecast. The following chart shows how less erratic core PPI has been, using the same vertical bounds as the chart above:

ppi 2010-03 cht2.PNG

Core PPI has only risen by more than 0.3% for one month in the past year. That shows pretty stable prices. This continues to support the argument based on the consumer price index that inflation is not much of a worry at this time.

Note: All statistics above are seasonally adjusted.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/04/producer-prices-increase-by-07-in-march/39328/