Finished goods prices charged by producers rose less last month than in September, but details of the report issued yesterday by the Labor Department carried an ominous warning of new inflationary pressures.
The food and energy prices increases that month after month have hit American consumers and businesses are slowly, only to be replaced by more broad-based increases on everything from new cars to machine tools, the report indicated.
Consumer food prices dipped 0.1 percent last month after rising a sharp 1.8 percent in September. And energy products ready for sale, such as gasoline, climbed 4.7 percent compared to 6.8 percent the month before.
These changes helped bring down the overall increase in the finished goods portion of the producer price index -- formerly the wholesale price index -- to an even 1 percent from a 1.4 percent jump in September.
However, large increases in new car prices and many other items caused finished goods prices for goods other than food to shoot up 1.4 percent, the largest one-month rise since October, 1974.
Moreover, producer prices for intermediate materials and crude materials, other than food and energy, rose significantly faster in October than the month before.
For these reasons, Carter administration officials took little comfort from the smaller increase in the overall index. Treasury Secretary G. William Miller, for instance, said the "slackening" in food price increases offered "a little bit of encouragement." But he added, "We're not out of the woods yet."
A labor Department economist, John Layng, had a much harsher analysis. The new report shows inflation is now "much more broad-based throughout the economy" than in previous months when energy and food prices were the main problems, he said.
At the White House, Press Secretary Jody Powell also expressed concern that the October numbers showed inflationary pressures spreading to industrial sectors.
Prices for energy products ready for sale to consumers have risen 60.5 percent in the last 12 months, the department said. The latest prices actually are for September, since they are included in the index one month late.
Gasoline prices were up 5.1 percent in the latest month, compared to 6.2 percent the month before. Heating oil was up 4.7 percent, much less than the 7.9 percent rise the previous month.
These increases are expected to continue to slow, analysts say, but the food prices declines will soon turn around. The question worrying administration economists is how much of the previous food and energy price increases are going to get built into other prices.
Consumer durables prices, for instance, rose 1.1 percent in October, more than in any month since January, the department said. Much of the increase was due to an upturn in new car prices as the 1980 models were included for the first time. In addition, the price of household flatware soared 39.1 percent in the single month, largely as a result of higher silver and gold prices.
But that was not all. Large advances were also posted for precious-metal jewelry, mobile homes, cutlery, lawnmowers and floor coverings, the report said.
Capital equipment bought by business cost more, too. That index rose 1.2 percent following five months of much smaller increases.
The index for intermediate materials, supplies and components jumped 1.8 percent, primarily as a result of large hikes for a number of manufacturing and construction materials ranging from finished steel products to wood pulp and industrial chemicals.
The index for crude materials rose 1.5 percent in October, down from a 2.1 percent increase the month before. Smaller increases for foodstuffs and energy materials, which account for more than 70 percent of this index, were the reason. Crude materials prices for the remainder of the index jumped 4.4 percent in October compared to a 2.6 percent decline in August and only a 0.3 percent rise in September.