Key inflation measure shows price pressures cooled off in November, but remain high

Another key inflation measure shows price pressures cooled off but remained stubbornly high in November, despite the Federal Reserve’s monthslong efforts to fight inflation through higher interest rates.

The Producer Price Index, which measures prices paid for goods and services by businesses before they reach consumers, rose 7.4% in November compared to a year earlier, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. That’s down from the revised 8.1% gain reported for October.

US stocks fell immediately after the report, as economists surveyed by Refinitiv had expected wholesales prices to have risen just 7.2%, annually. The higher-than-expected inflation readings raised concerns about whether the Fed will be able to slow the pace of rate hikes.

But futures for the Fed funds rate still show a strong likelihood of a half-point increase at the central bank’s policymaking meeting next week, rather than the three-quarter point hike instituted at the last four meetings.

The PPI report generally gets less attention that the corresponding Consumer Price Index, which measures prices paid by US consumers for goods and services. But this is a rare month in which the PPI report came out before the CPI report, which is due out Tuesday.

That and the Fed meeting scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week is making this inflation report of particular importance to investors.

“Next Tuesday’s CPI release will be more important than today’s data, but with traders on edge, any indication that prices remain elevated and that inflation is more sticky than currently believed is a negative for markets,” said Chris Zaccarelli, Chief Investment Officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.

Overall prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3% compared to October — the same monthly increase as was reported in both September and October — but were slightly higher than the 0.2% rise forecast by economists.

Stripping out volatile food and energy prices, core PPI rose 6.2% for the year ending in November, down from the revised 6.8% increase the previous month. Economists had forecast only a 5.9% increase.

Core PPI posted a 0.4% increase from October, a far bigger rise than the revised 0.1% month-over-month rise in that previous month, and twice as big as the 0.2% rise forecast by economists.

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