The producer price index, which measures the prices companies receive for goods and services, rose 0.3% in November, the Labor Department said on December 11. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices were up 0.3%.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected overall prices would hold steady, and core prices would rise 0.1%.
Overall producer prices were down 1.1% in November from a year earlier, the tenth straight year-over-year decline. Core prices were up 0.5% from last year.
The index measures prices from the perspective of the seller but generally tracks closely with other measures of inflation for consumers.
Those gauges have been historically weak this year amid low oil prices, a strong dollar and weak demand abroad.
In November, producer prices for goods fell for the fifth straight month. The 0.1% decline was due almost entirely to a 0.6% drop in energy prices. By contrast, food prices edged up 0.3%, thanks to a 23.5% spike in the price of butter, the biggest one-month jump since November 2000. Services prices were up 0.5%.
Federal Reserve officials are expected to raise interest rates at their meeting next week for the first time in nearly a decade, resting on a much-improved labor market but without strong evidence inflation is firming.
The price index for personal consumption expenditures, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, was up only 0.2% from a year earlier in October. Fed officials have blamed weak inflation on temporary factors, including depressed energy and import prices.
“Ongoing gains in the labor market, coupled with my judgment that longer-term inflation expectations remain reasonably well anchored, serve to bolster my confidence in a return of inflation to 2% as the disinflationary effects of declines in energy and import prices wane,” Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said last week.