Wholesale Prices Shoot Up Again, Suggesting Inflation Stuck in High Gear

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
February 15, 2022 Updated: February 16, 2022

Wholesale price inflation accelerated in January, rising at twice the pace forecasters predicted and delivering a fresh sign of persistent inflationary pressures gripping the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department said in a Feb 15 statement that the final demand Producer Price Index (PPI), which is a measure of input costs borne by providers of goods and services, accelerated at a monthly pace of 1 percent in January. That’s double the 0.5 percent pace that forecasters expected.

Wholesale prices are a leading indicator of consumer price inflation as costs borne by producers tend to get passed along to consumers.

On an annual basis, producer prices rose at a rate of 9.7 percent over the 12 months ended in January, only slightly below November’s and December’s record high pace of 9.8 percent. Economists expected January’s PPI to grow at a slower 9.1 percent pace.

Consumer price inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), hit a fresh 40-year high of 7.5 percent in the year through January.

So-called core PPI, which strips out the volatile categories of food and energy and is considered a better measure of underlying inflationary pressures, rose 0.8 percent last month, following December’s increase of 0.5 percent and a faster pace than the 0.5 percent expected by consensus forecasts.

The sharp rise in the monthly pace of core and headline wholesale price inflation, in particular, suggests that inflationary pressures are becoming more entrenched.

“Bottom line: More CPI inflation in the pipeline,” Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian said in a tweet, predicting that consumers will see higher prices down the road.

The acceleration in the wholesale price data adds to pressure on the Federal Reserve to act to contain runaway prices.

Surging inflation has become a key economic concern among U.S. consumers, rising faster than wages and eroding the purchasing power of many American households. While wages have risen significantly, inflation has gone up at a faster pace, pushing real inflation-adjusted wages into negative territory and effectively delivering a pay cut for many.

Fed officials have started to phase out some of the stimulus measures adopted at the height of the pandemic to help the economy weather the impact of lockdowns and reduced consumer demand.

The Fed is expected to start raising interest rates at its March meeting, with hikes expected to continue throughout the year.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'