Tue Apr 10 07:30:00 CDT 2018

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous
PPI-FD - M/M change 0.1% 0.0% to 0.4% 0.3% 0.2%
PPI-FD less food & energy - M/M change 0.2% 0.2% to 0.3% 0.3% 0.2%
PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services - M/M change 0.3% 0.2% to 0.4% 0.4% 0.4%
PPI-FD - Y/Y change 3.0% 2.8%
PPI-FD less food & energy - Y/Y change 2.7% 2.5%
PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services - Y/Y change 2.9% 2.7%

There is a little more inflation at the wholesale level, including for primary metals, but the acceleration is modest. Producer prices rose 0.3 percent in March which is 2 tenths above Econoday's consensus with ex-food & ex-energy also up 0.3 percent and ex-food, ex-energy & ex-trade services up 0.4 percent, both of which are 1 tenth above consensus.

Part of the pressure does reflect a jump in steel mill products, up 1.9 percent in the month with steel scrap up 4.3 percent. This is no surprise given reports out of the factory sector that steel and aluminum prices jumped in initial reaction to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

Another source of pressure, and one not related to tariffs at least in March, was a 2.2 percent wholesale jump in food prices which includes a 32 percent snapback in vegetables which plunged 27 percent the month before. Energy held down prices in the month, slipping 2.1 percent following February's 0.5 percent dip.

And much of today's report doesn't show much pressure at all, including only a 0.2 percent gain for the closely watched trade services subcomponent which tracks price effects at retailers and wholesalers. This year-on-year rate is up only 2.0 percent in contrast to the 3.0 percent overall rate.

Still 3.0 percent is noticeable growth though this reading peaked back in November last year at 3.1 percent. There are hints right now of building capacity stress tied to longer delivery times and lack of highly skilled labor but the pressures are still modest and as yet aren't raising the heat on the Federal Reserve to pick up its rate hike path. Watch tomorrow for March consumer prices where very moderate readings are the expectation.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Amid reports of price volatility for steel and aluminum, the March producer price report could show the first definitive effects of U.S. tariffs. But forecasters aren't calling for much impact in March, at a consensus 0.1 percent gain though the high estimate is at 0.4 percent. Less food and energy is seen up 0.2 percent with less food, energy and trade services expected to rise 0.3 percent.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a family of indexes that measures the average change over time in the prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. PPIs measure price change from the perspective of the seller. Effective with the January 2014 PPI data release in February 2014, BLS transitioned from the Stage of Processing (SOP) to the Final Demand-Intermediate Demand (FD-ID) aggregation system. The headline PPI (for Final Demand) measures price changes for goods, services, and construction sold to final demand: personal consumption, capital investment, government purchases, and exports.

The PPI measures prices at the producer level before they are passed along to final consumers. A portion of the inflation at the producer level gets passed through to the consumer price index (CPI). By tracking price pressures in the pipeline, investors can anticipate inflationary consequences in coming months.

While the CPI is the price index with the most impact in setting interest rates, the PPI provides significant information earlier in the production process. As a starting point, interest rates have an "inflation premium" and components for risk factors. A lender will want the money paid back from a loan to at least have the same purchasing power as when loaned. The interest rate at a minimum equals the inflation rate to maintain purchasing power and this generally is based on the CPI. Changes in inflation lead to changes in interest rates and, in turn, in equity prices.

The PPI comes in two key main versions: final demand (FD) and intermediate demand (ID). The final demand portion is composed of six main price indexes: final demand goods; final demand trade services; final demand transportation and warehousing services; final demand services less trade, transportation, and warehousing; final demand construction; and overall final demand.

The intermediate demand portion of the FD-ID system tracks price changes for goods, services, and construction products sold to businesses as inputs to production, excluding capital investment. There are two parallel treatments of intermediate demand, each constructed from the identical set of commodity price indexes. The first treatment organizes commodities according to commodity type, and the second organizes commodities using a stage-based, production flow model.

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

Under the prior PPI system, the producer price index was substantially more volatile than the consumer price index because the CPI included services while the PPI did not. Volatility has been reduced substantially in the PPI-FD due to the inclusion of services but the PPI still is more volatile than the CPI. Wages are a bigger share of the costs at the retail level than at the producer level and this plays a role in the CPI’s lower volatility. Also, the PPI does not include owners’ equivalent rentâ€a large and slow moving component in the CPI. Food and energy prices are major sources of volatility in the PPI, hence, the greater focus on the "core PPI" which excludes these two components.

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.