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Key inflation measure slows slightly, but remains uncomfortably high

The Producer Price Index, which measures wholesale prices before goods and services reach consumers, rose 10.8% in May compared to where it stood a year ago, according to data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While that’s down from the revised 10.9% rise reported in April’s reading, it is still high by historical standards. The PPI had not recorded a double-digit increase in data going back to 2009 until this past December.
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When stripping out volatile food and energy, the so-called core PPI posted an 8.3% gain over the course of the last 12 months, compared to the revised 8.6% rise in that reading for April.

Much of the increase was due to soaring energy prices. Wholesale energy prices were up 5% in May compared to April, and up 44.6% over the course of the past 12 months.
A one-month increase of 8.4% in wholesale gasoline prices in May resulted in a 66.2% rise in gasoline over the year. The national average for a gallon of gasoline at the retail level hit $5 for the first time ever over the weekend, according to figures from AAA.
The good news for consumers is that wholesale food prices showed no month-over-month increase, despite rising retail prices for those goods. Wholesale food prices are still up 13.3% over the past 12 months, and the retail prices for food purchased to eat at home posted a one-month 1.4% rise in May and an 11.9% increase over the past 12 months, according to an earlier Labor Department reading.
The report comes after Friday’s Consumer Price Index, which showed the fastest pace of price hikes for consumers in more than 40 years. These reports likely put further pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively in order to battle inflationary pressures.
The central bank hiked its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point in May for the first time since 2000. It begins a two-day monetary policymaking meeting Tuesday, and could announce a three-quarter-percentage-point hike at the conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday. That would be the biggest jump in that key interest rate since 1994.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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