February 19, 2009
Inflation at the wholesale level surged unexpectedly in January, reflecting sharply higher prices for gasoline and other energy products.
The Labor Department said Thursday that wholesale prices increased by 0.8 percent last month, the biggest gain since last July and well above the 0.2 percent increase that economists had expected.
The acceleration was led by a 3.7 percent surge in energy prices with gasoline prices jumping by 15 percent, the biggest gain in 14 months.
Even outside the volatile food and energy sectors, wholesale prices showed a bigger-than-expected increase, rising by 0.4 percent. Economists had expected a slight 0.1 percent rise in so-called core inflation.
Food prices were well-behaved last month, falling for a second straight month. The 0.4 percent decline in January reflected lower costs for beef and dairy products which offset gains in the price of vegetables and chicken products.
In addition to the big jump in gasoline costs, prices for home heating oil were up by 5.4 percent and liquefied petroleum gas, which is often used to heat homes in rural areas, surged by 20.2 percent, the biggest jump in more than six years.