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Economic Watch: Producer Prices Retreat, Consumer Sentiment Best in 7 Years

December 12, 2014

By Evan Lockridge

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Prices at the wholesale level in November gave up all the gains made the month before, led by declining energy costs, while consumers in the U.S. are feeling better than they have in many years.

The 0.2% drop in the Producer Price Index followed a 0.2 increase in October and a 0.1% gain in September, according to a new Labor Department report.

Over the past 12 months, as of November, the PPI has increased 1.4%, the smallest one-year increase since February. Excluding food and energy costs, the core PPI was flat in November, leaving the annual rate unchanged at 1.8%.

Energy costs fell 3.1% in November from October. A 6.3% drop in gasoline prices was responsible for more than half of the overall decline. When the volatile food and energy sectors are removed, November wholesale prices edged down just 0.1% from October.

Lower energy prices are due to a sharp decline in the price of crude oil in the second half of the year, falling below $60 per barrel in New York trading on Thursday for the first time since July 2009.

“The sluggish rate of inflation in the U.S. is becoming an increasing concern for policy makers as headline price pressures continue to move away from the Federal Reserve's target of 2%," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment banker Sterne Agee. "With the final Fed meeting of 2014 next week, and given the lingering headwinds of declining inflation and stagnant wage growth, the Fed is likely to maintain key language….signaling to the market a continued sense of patience” [before it moves interest rates higher].

A separate report revealed consumers in the U.S. are feeling better than they have in many years, according to the Thompson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers.

Its consumer sentiment index for this month rose to an initial reading of 93.8, its highest level since January 2007, following a final November reading of 88.8.

The survey’s separate readings of consumer expectations and their feelings over current economic conditions were also the highest since 2007.

"Expected wage gains rose to their highest level since 2008, and consumers voiced the most favorable buying attitudes in several decades," said survey director Richard said in a statement.

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