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Producer Prices Increase in April

May 13, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Prices charged by factories and other producers rose in April for the first time in seven months, pushed up by jumps in food and tobacco costs.

The 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted gain in the Labor Department’s Producer Price Index _ the first since September _ was expected as a result of stabilizing world petroleum prices.

Since early fall, producer prices have been held down by tumbling energy costs and drops in the price of goods exported from economically ailing East Asia.

The influence of the energy decline, however, is waning. Its cost edged just 0.1 percent lower last month after six months of steeper drops, the department said today, and analysts look for them to stabilize or drift higher for the rest of the year.

Still, for the first four months of the year, the wholesalers who buy finished goods from producers have enjoyed a rare period of deflation. The index for finished goods fell at a 2.5 percent annual rate. Excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, so-called core prices rose at a scant 0.8 percent annual rate.

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