January 31, 2017 04:00 CST

Actual Previous
Month over Month 0.6% -0.2%
Year over Year 0.9% -0.3%

December producer prices saw their first increase since July. A 0.6 percent monthly rise helped lift the annual PPI inflation rate from minus 0.3 percent in November to 0.9 percent, its first positive print since February 2013.

Headline prices were supported by a 1.2 percent monthly bounce in energy but even excluding this category, the PPI was still up 0.3 percent versus mid-quarter and 0.8 percent higher on the year. Intermediates recorded a 0.4 percent monthly gain, ahead of consumer goods (0.2 percent) and capital goods (0.1 percent).

Despite December's bounce, producer prices over the last three months were still 0.1 percent down on the previous period. Tentative signs of some pick-up in economic activity may help, but market conditions remain too weak to accommodate any meaningful hike in charges any time soon.

The producer price indices (PPI) measure transaction prices, exclusive of VAT, for goods from industrial activities sold on the Italian market. Construction is excluded. Changes in the index provide a guide to inflation from the point of view of the product's producer/manufacturer and, in contrast to the consumer price index (CPI), excludes VAT and other deductible taxed associated with turnover.

The PPI measures prices at the producer level before they are passed along to consumers. Since the producer price index measures prices of consumer goods and capital equipment, a portion of the inflation at the producer level gets passed through to the consumer price index (CPI).

Because the index of producer prices measures price changes at an early stage in the economic process, it can serve as an indicator of future inflation trends. The producer price index and its sub-indexes are often used in business contracts for the adjustment of recurring payments. They also are used to deflate other values of economic statistics like the production index. It should be noted that the PPI excludes construction.

The PPI provides a key measure of inflation alongside the consumer price indexes and GDP deflators. The output price indexes measure change in manufacturer' goods prices produced and often are referred to as factory gate prices. Input prices are not limited to just those materials used in the final product, but also include what is required by the company in its normal day-to-day operations.

The PPI is considered a precursor of both consumer price inflation and profits. If the prices paid to manufacturers increase, businesses are faced with either charging higher prices or they taking a cut in profits. The ability to pass along price increases depends on the strength and competitiveness of the marketplace.

The bond market rallies when the PPI decreases or posts only small increases, but bond prices fall when the PPI posts larger-than-expected gains. The equity market rallies with the bond market because low inflation promises low interest rates and is good for profits.