"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Producer Price Index

The Producer Price Index, released monthly by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a survey of the change in manufacturing costs in the United States.  It isn't considered a measure of inflation, precisely, but it is a barometer of sorts for inflation trends.  If manufacturing costs are going up, those costs will (eventually) get passed on to consumers.
February was a bad month for these measures.  PPI for finished goods increased 1.6% (missing expectations by 90 bps), although "core"[1] PPI for finished goods met expectations at a 0.2% increase.  PPI for finished food increased 3.9%, while PPI for finished energy increased 3.3%.  PPI for intermediate goods increased 2.0%, and PPI for crude goods increased 3.4%
Despite missing expectations last month, the Econoday-surveyed analysts are looking for PPI to increase 1.0% and "core" PPI to increase 0.2%.  Now, are they right?  Let's look at the report and see for ourselves.
The short answer is, "no, they were wrong".  The long answer is that PPI for finished goods increased 0.7% in March (beating expectations), although "core" PPI increased 0.3% (missing expectations).  PPI for finished foods fell 0.2% (led by fresh and dry vegetables, which dropped 21.4%), but PPI for finished energy rose 2.6%[ (led by gasoline, which rose 5.7%)2].  PPI for intermediate goods rose 1.5%, and PPI for crude goods fell 0.5%.
[1]  I won't start, today.  I'll be good.  I promise.
[2]  No surprise there, I suspect.

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