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U.S. Supplier Prices Increased in September, Maintaining Pressure on Inflation


U.S. suppliers raised prices in September from the prior month, keeping pressure on inflation that remains high but is easing some compared with a year ago.

The producer-price index, which measures the prices that suppliers are charging businesses and other customers, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4% last month compared with a revised 0.2% decrease in August, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. Higher food prices and home-heating costs drove the increase.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.3% increase in September.

Despite last month’s acceleration, the PPI eased slightly in September compared with the same month a year ago, increasing at an annual rate of 8.5% compared with 8.7% in August. That is down from an annual rate of 11.3% in June.

The PPI can reflect price trends that eventually affect consumer-level inflation, since businesses eventually pass on their costs, or savings, to consumers. An easing of producer-price increases could point to changes to the consumer-price index, which is running close to a four-decade high.

Along with being a helpful tool for forecasting inflation, producer-price indexes are often used as the basis for automatic adjustments in supplier contracts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that trillions of dollars in long-term contracts are pegged to versions of the PPI.

Investors and the Fed are watching for signs that persistently high inflation is easing. U.S. consumer prices overall rose more slowly in August from a year earlier. But core prices increased sharply from the prior month, showing that inflation pressures remained strong and stubborn.

Hiring lost some momentum in September, but remained strong, with the September unemployment rate of 3.5% matching half-century lows. Wage growth has begun to slow, with average hourly earnings rising 5% in September from a year before—still rapid but below August’s 5.2% pace and the slowest annual rate since December 2021.

Prices have begun to fall for some goods and services, including commodities, freight shipping and housing. Those declines have led some Fed watchers to warn that the central bank risks tightening financial conditions too much.

“Leading indicators of inflation and macroeconomic forces strongly point to lower inflation ahead,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “They could inflict an unnecessary recession on American families, while doing little to improve productivity or living standards.”

Fed officials this week said they remain committed to raising rates, at least through early next year.

Consumer spending has held up relatively well so far despite inflation, but experts say we’re approaching an inflection point. WSJ’s Sharon Terlep explains the role “elasticity” plays in a company’s decision on whether to raise prices. Photo illustration: Adele Morgan

“Monetary policy will be restrictive for some time to ensure that inflation moves back” to the central bank’s 2% target, Fed Vice Chairwoman

Lael Brainard

said Monday. “It will take time for the cumulative effect of tighter monetary policy to work through the economy and to bring inflation down,” she said.

The Fed has raised the benchmark federal-funds rate at its last three meetings by 0.75 percentage point, most recently last month to a range between 3% and 3.25%. Officials have indicated they are prepared to raise rates over the course of their final two gatherings this year to around 4.25%.

Some economists say the impacts of interest-rate increases can take time to show up in the economy, a dynamic that the Fed should take into account when making decisions. Wholesale prices of used cars have been dropping in recent months, for example, but that shift isn’t yet fully reflected in government figures. Calculations for housing prices and residential rents can also lag.

Coming earnings reports from big banks, including

JPMorgan Chase

& Co. and

Citigroup Inc.,

and consumer-facing companies such as

Delta Air Lines Inc.


Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

could include more insight into how monetary policy is affecting the economy.

Companies are trying to manage higher costs without alienating consumers who are weary of price increases. Some firms also are contending with the negative effects of a surging dollar on revenue generated in other countries.

Write to Gabriel T. Rubin at [email protected]

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