WASHINGTON – Higher costs for gasoline and home heating oil helped push U.S. wholesale prices up at a faster-than-expected clip last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, though falling prices for imported oil since the Sept. 11 attacks may rein in the jumps in the coming months.
The Producer Price Index -- a measure of costs at the factory door and the farm gate -- climbed 0.4 percent in September, matching August's rise and well ahead of Wall Street economists' forecasts for a slim 0.1 percent gain.
Excluding food and energy products, the so-called core rate, watched closely by the Federal Reserve as a gauge of underlying pressures, was ahead 0.3 percent in September after falling 0.1 percent in August.
Gasoline prices shot up 6.3 percent last month on top of an 8.7 percent surge in August, while home heating oil costs rose 4.5 percent after edging up 0.8 percent in August. Oil prices -- while still volatile -- have moderated since Sept. 11, when hijackers slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Softer U.S. demand in a slowing economy and less airline traffic has reduced fuel demand.
Prices for new cars rose 1.3 percent in September -- the sharpest pickup since 1.4 percent in October 1999 -- after a 0.7 percent August rise. But since the attacks, automakers have announced financing and other discounts to try to boost sales that almost certainly will mean lower prices in future.