Producer Prices Decline 0.3%, Driven by Energy

By Daniel Indiviglio

Prices for finished goods dipped on the producer level in May by 0.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But deflation alarmists shouldn't begin raising their voices just yet. The core producer price index for finished goods -- that which strips out food and energy -- actually increased by 0.2%, matching April's rise. That's because May's overall decline was driven by energy, which fell by 1.5%. This indicates that neither inflation nor deflation is currently a threat.

First, here's a historical chart on the Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods:

ppi 2010-05.PNG

That volatility is almost entirely due to food and energy. They tend to jump around and create misleading conclusions on price trends. Taking those factors out of the equation, you get the following chart for core PPI:

ppi  - core 2010-05.PNG

As you can see, this measure is a lot more stable. It indicates that producer prices are largely steady. They have averaged 0.1% for the past twelve months. Over the past year, core PPI has grown 1.3%, which is an acceptably low rate of inflation.

At this time the price level appears under control on the producer level. We'll know tomorrow if the same holds true for consumers when BLS releases that data for May.

Note: All numbers above are seasonally adjusted.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/06/producer-prices-decline-03-driven-by-energy/58238/