Inflation continued to slow last month as wholesale prices inched up 0.1 percent, checked by lower food prices and slower increases in gasoline prices, the Labor Department said yesterday.
The July increase for finished goods was smaller than the 0.5 percent increase in June and the 0.3 percent rise in May. For the 12 months ended in July, wholesale prices rose 1.4 percent, the smallest such increase since 1967.
The slowdown in the price increases was due largely to a smaller rise in prices for finished energy goods and to a 0.6 percent decline in consumer food prices, about the same rate as in May and June, the Labor Department said. The slow increase in wholesale prices indicated to some economists that inflation should remain moderate this year, but others expected food prices to rise in the future, increasing inflationary pressures.
President Reagan told a group of Hispanic business executives yesterday that the 0.1 percent increase showed that "we are on the right track" regarding administration economic policy. "We are launched into a solid recovery," the president said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported a much better set of money numbers yesteday in its weekly money supply data than financial markets had been expecting. The narrow measure of the money supply, M1, which includes cash and checking accounts, rose by just $400 million after seasonal adjustment in the week ended Aug. 3, well below the $1.1 billion increase the prevous week.
Still more encouraging was the news that a broader measure of the money supply, M2, rose at an annual rate of just under 6 1/2 percent during July. This is well within the Fed's targets for M2 growth and will reassure analysts who had warned that both M2 and M1 were running ahead of target last month. M1 averaged $517.6 billion in the week ended Aug. 3, while M2--which includes money market deposit accounts and mutual funds--averaged $2.126 trillion in July, the Fed report said.
The "Fed now has a little bit of breathing room," which should stop the recent rise in interest rates, David Wyss of Data Resources Inc. commented. He said that there may be more pressure on rates later in the year, but there "may be a pause at least for the next month."
In a separate report, the Federal Reserve reported that consumer debt rose by a record $4.4 billion in June, with almost half of new installment loans going toward automobile purchases. Revolving credit from commercial banks, retailers and gasoline companies increased by $1.2 billion from May to June for a total of $66.6 billion of outstanding revolving credit seasonally adjusted, the Fed said.
Installment credit rose 6.2 percent over June 1982 levels, and credit toward automobile purchases increased 6.3 percent. Revolving credit was 8.3 percent higher than June 1982. Total credit outstanding in June was $354.7 billion.
Consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 15 percent in June, the largest growth rate since September 1979. For the second quarter, the annualized growth rate was 11 percent compared with 7 percent in the first quarter and 4 percent last year.