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U.S. Wholesale Prices Unexpectedly Fall by Most in Almost a Year

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Wholesale prices in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in July by the most in almost a year, a sign inflation is likely to stay muted.

The 0.4 percent drop in the producer-price index, the biggest since September, followed a 0.5 percent gain the prior month, a Labor Department report showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of 63 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent advance.

Prices in the production pipeline remain tame, reflecting the lingering influence of lower energy costs, the strong dollar and weak global demand. Federal Reserve officials, considering when to lift interest rates, are watching for signs of whether inflation is moving toward their goal.

“There’s really not much inflationary pressure at all in producer prices,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, said before the report. “We’re looking at a very soft global economy. The strong dollar is still a factor.”

Separately, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales were little changed in July as rising demand for autos limited purchases of other goods.

Projections for producer prices ranged from a drop of 0.4 percent to an advance of 0.4 percent, according to the Bloomberg survey of economists.

Fuel, Food

The decline in the producer price index was paced by a 1 percent decrease in energy costs and a 1.1 percent drop in food, the report showed. Profit margins at retailers and other trade services also retreated, led by a 6 percent plunge clothing and jewelry merchants that was the biggest since records began in 2012.

From a year earlier, producer prices fell 0.2 percent.

Excluding food and energy, wholesale prices declined 0.3 percent following a 0.4 percent advance the prior month. Those costs were up 0.7 percent from July 2015.

Excluding food and energy and also eliminating trade services, producer costs were little changed. Some economists prefer this reading because it strips out the most volatile components of PPI.
One caveat to the otherwise weak readings was that health-care prices, which are used to calculate the Commerce Department’s consumer spending inflation index — the Fed’s preferred price measure — picked up. Those costs rose 0.3 percent in July before adjusting for seasonal variations following, the biggest gain since October, according to the report.

The producer price gauge is one of three monthly inflation reports released by the Labor Department, the other two being import costs and consumer prices.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Gold

Gold Prices Rise as Soft Dollar Supports Safe-haven Appeal

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Gold prices firmed on Monday, propped up by a subdued dollar and slight retreat in the U.S. Treasury yields, with investors gearing up for a week of speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers for cues on the central bank’s rate hike path.

Spot gold was up 0.5% at $1,759.06 per ounce, as of 0400 GMT, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.4% at $1,759.00.

While the dollar index softened, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yields eased after hitting their highest since early-July. A weaker dollar offered support to gold prices, making bullion cheaper for holders of other currencies.

“Gold is still looking slightly precarious where it is right now, and it’s probably bouncing off key technical level around $1,750,” IG Market analyst Kyle Rodda said.

“Gold remains an yield story and that yield story is very much tied back to the tapering story.”

A slew of Fed officials are due to speak this week including Chairman Jerome Powell, who will testify this week before Congress on the central bank’s policy response to the pandemic.

“There’ll be a lot of questions being put to Fed speakers about what the dot plots implied last week and weather there is higher risk of heightened inflation going forward and that rate hikes could be coming in the first half of 2022,” Rodda added.

A pair of Federal Reserve policymakers said on Friday they felt the U.S. economy is already in good enough shape for the central bank to begin to withdraw support for the economy.

Gold is often considered a hedge against higher inflation, but a Fed rate hike would increase the opportunity cost of holding gold, which pays no interest.

Investors also kept a close watch on developments in debt-laden property giant China Evergrande saga as the firm missed a payment on offshore bonds last week, with further payment due this week.

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, increased 0.1% to 993.52 tonnes on Friday from 992.65 tonnes in the prior session.

Silver rose 0.9% to $22.61 per ounce.

Platinum climbed 1.3% to $994.91, while palladium gained 0.7% to $1,985.32.

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Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Near $80 Per Barrel Amid Supply Constraints

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Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day on Monday with Brent heading for $80 amid supply concerns as parts of the world sees demand pick up with the easing of pandemic conditions.

Brent crude was up $1.14 or 1.5% at $79.23 a barrel by 0208 GMT, having risen a third consecutive week through Friday. U.S. Oil added $1.11 or 1.5% to $75.09, its highest since July, after rising for a fifth straight week last week.

“Supply tightness continues to draw on inventories across all regions,” ANZ Research said in a note.

Rising gas prices as also helping drive oil higher as the liquid becomes relatively cheaper for power generation, ANZ analysts said in the note.

Caught short by the demand rebound, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, have had difficulty raising output as under-investment or maintenance delays persist from the pandemic.

China’s first public sale of state oil reserves has barely acted to cap gains as PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totalling about 4.43 million barrels.

India’s oil imports hit a three-month peak in August, rebounding from nearly one-year lows reached in July, as refiners in the second-biggest importer of crude stocked up in anticipation of higher demand.

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Crude Oil

Oil Holds Near Highest Since 2018 With Global Markets Tightening

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Oil held steady near the highest close since 2018, with the global energy crunch set to increase demand for crude as stockpiles fall from the U.S. to China.

Futures in London headed for a third weekly gain. Global onshore crude stocks sank by almost 21 million barrels last week, led by China, according to data analytics firm Kayrros, while U.S. inventories are near a three-year low. The surge in natural gas prices is expected to force some consumers to switch to oil, tightening the market further ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.

China on Friday sold oil to Hengli Petrochemical Co. and a unit of PetroChina Co. in the first auction of crude from its strategic reserves said traders with the knowledge of the matter. Grades sold included Oman, Upper Zakum and Forties.

Oil has rallied recently after a period of Covid-induced demand uncertainty, with some of the world’s largest traders and banks predicting prices may climb further amid the energy crisis. Global crude consumption could rise by an additional 370,000 barrels a day if natural gas costs stay high, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“Underpinning the latest bout of price strength is a tightening supply backdrop,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd.

Various underlying oil market gauges are also pointing to a strengthening market. The key spread between Brent futures for December and a year later is near $7, the strongest since 2019. That’s a sign traders are positive about the market outlook.

At the same time, the premium options traders are paying for bearish put options is the smallest since January 2020, another indication that traders are less concerned about a pullback in prices.

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