A fourth consecutive monthly drop in energy prices helped offset higher food costs and hold overall wholesale prices in May to a moderate 0.3 percent increase, the government said yesterday.
Analysts viewed the soft increase in the Labor Department's producer price index for finished goods as encouraging news on the inflation front, especially given last winter's huge price gains caused by a severe cold snap. That freeze sent wholesale prices spiraling up 1.9 percent in January to a 15-year record.
The May report should help dampen inflation worries for the Federal Reserve, which has been under pressure to ease its inflation-fighting campaign and lower interest rates to boost the economy, analysts said. Still, many analysts expected no immediate shift in the central bank's policy. They said they were awaiting the government's data on consumer prices for May, due out today, for a better picture of the nation's inflation situation.
Consumer prices, up at an annual rate of 6.8 percent for the first four months of 1990, have been rising at a steeper pace than wholesale costs. Producer prices reflect only the cost of goods while consumer prices are heavily influenced by the cost of services.