WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale prices held steady in May as falling costs for energy products, eggs and other food items more than offset increased prices for cars, paper products and books.
The flat reading in today's Producer Price Index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, followed a 0.3 percent decline in wholesale prices in April pulled down by a sharp drop in the costs of energy, the Labor Department reported.
May's performance surprised analysts, who were predicting that a rebound in energy prices would push the index up by 0.3 percent.
Outside the volatile energy and food categories, the ''core'' rate of inflation at the wholesale level last month rose 0.2 percent, slightly faster than many analysts were forecasting. In March and April, core prices rose a tiny 0.1 percent.
The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates six times since last June, including an aggressive half-point increase in May to slow the economy and keep inflation from becoming a problem.
Some recent economic reports, including home sales, factory orders and unemployment, have offered signs that the economy may be slowing a bit. Against this backdrop, economists have offered mixed opinions on whether Fed policy-makers will nudge up rates late this month.
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