U.S. producer prices rose by the most in six months in October, reflecting in part a big jump in healthcare costs, but the underlying inflation trend remained muted.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that the producer price index for final demand rose 0.4% last month, the biggest increase since April, after declining 0.3% in September. But in the 12 months through October, the PPI increased 1.1%, the smallest gain since October 2016, after advancing 1.4% in the 12 months through September.
Economists had forecast a 0.3% increase in October and a 0.9% gain on a year-to-year basis.
The yearly producer price rate had surged to as high as 3.4% just a year and a half ago. At that time, the Federal Reserve was expecting core inflation to reach its 2% target but it has cut interest rates three times this year with the core rate slowing to 1.5% from 1.7%.
Reuters said the October gain in the PPI would further bolster the Fed’s stance that it will probably not cut interest rates again in the near term. But economists don’t see the overall trend supporting an increase in rates.
“Inflation needs to accelerate noticeably for the Fed to consider raising interest rates, and that doesn’t appear to be in the cards,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics.
In October, wholesale energy prices rebounded 2.8% after dropping 2.5% in September. Gasoline prices surged 7.3% , accounting for nearly half of the 0.7% increase in goods prices.
“There was still no sign that the trade tariffs were boosting producer inflation, with core goods prices unchanged last month after slipping 0.1% in September,” Reuters noted.
The cost of hospital outpatient care jumped 0.7%, the most since July 2009, with inpatient care prices rising 0.6%, the biggest increase since October 2018.
Excluding the volatile food, energy and trade services components, producer prices edged up 0.1% after being unchanged in September. The report “supports our view that there is little danger of inflation rising sustainably above the Fed’s target,” said Andrew Hunter, senior economist at Capital Economics.