WASHINGTON - U.S. producer prices fell slightly in December, reflecting a big drop in energy prices. The decline capped a year in which prices at the wholesale level fell, underscoring the continued absence of inflationary pressures.
The Labor Department says its Producer Price Index, which measures inflation before it reaches consumers, dropped 0.2 percent in December after a 0.3 percent increase in November. Over the past 12 months, producer prices have declined 1 percent.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, edged up a slight 0.1 percent in December. For the past 12 months, core inflation at the wholesale level is up a scant 0.3 percent.
While the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate last month, many economists say the absence of inflation pressures may delay future rate hikes.