US

US producer prices dip in February as shipping costs and retail profit margins decline

In this Jan. 9, 2014 photo, Andy Hines, Linh Nyugen loads live lobsters into a cargo truck for delivery to local cafes after leaving the Miami airport. The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for February on Friday, March 14, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

In this Jan. 9, 2014 photo, Andy Hines, Linh Nyugen loads live lobsters into a cargo truck for delivery to local cafes after leaving the Miami airport. The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for February on Friday, March 14, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)  (The Associated Press)

The prices companies receive for their goods and services fell slightly in February, the latest sign that inflation is tame.

The Labor Department says the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, dropped 0.1 percent in February. That's the first decline since November. A sharp fall in the price markups by wholesalers and retailers pushed down the index.

Wholesale food and energy prices increased, as did the cost of pharmaceuticals. Excluding the volatile categories of food, energy and retailer and wholesaler profit margins, core prices ticked up 0.1 percent.

The figures underscore that inflation remains largely in check. Businesses have struggled to raise prices because of historically high levels of unemployment and meager wage growth. That's made it harder for consumers to pay more.