U.S. producer prices surge more than expected in June

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in June, suggesting inflation could remain high as robust demand fueled by the economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain the supply chain.

FILE PHOTO: Lordstown Motors associates work on a pre-production all electric pickup truck, the Endurance, at the Lordstown Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio, U.S., June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

The producer price index for final demand increased 1.0% last month after rising 0.8% in May, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. In the 12 months through June, the PPI surged 7.3%. That was the biggest year-on-year rise since in November 2010 and followed a 6.6% advance in May.

Economists called by Reuters had forecast the PPI increasing 0.6% in June and rising 6.8% year-on-year.

Higher commodity prices and increased labor costs due to a shortage of willing workers are boosting inflation at the factory gate. With inventories at very low levels because of supply chain issues, producers are easily passing on the higher cost to consumers.

The government reported on Tuesday that consumer prices increased by the most in 13 years in June. Inflation has largely been driven by sectors at the center of the economy’s reopening, though there were signs in June that it was broadening to other segments.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is due to present the semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the U.S. Congress later on Wednesday and financial markets’ attention will be on his view of the latest inflation data.

Powell has long maintained that high inflation is transitory, a view shared my most economists and the White House. In a report to Congress last week the U.S. central bank said that as the “extraordinary circumstances” of the reopening subside, “supply and demand should become better aligned, and inflation is widely expected to move down.”

Most economists believe inflation has peaked or is close to doing so, noting that some prices of services depressed by the pandemic are nearing their pre-pandemic levels.

“Once prices get back toward pre-pandemic levels presumably the upside becomes more limited as consumers become price-sensitive as they were in normal times,” said Alexander Lin, a U.S. economist at Bank of America Securities in New York.

The Fed slashed its benchmark overnight interest rate to near zero last year and is pumping money into the economy through monthly bond purchases. That ultra-easy monetary policy stance, COVID-19 vaccinations and nearly $6 trillion in government relief since the pandemic started in the United States in March 2020 are whipping up demand.

The Fed has signaled it could tolerate higher inflation for some time to offset years in which inflation was lodged below its 2% target, a flexible average. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the core personal consumption expenditures price index, jumped 3.4% in May, the largest gain since April 1992.

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