NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Wholesale prices rose steeply in March on surging energy costs, the government reported Tuesday, but excluding volatile fuel and food costs producer prices came in tamer than analysts had forecast.
The Producer Price Index, the government's key measure of wholesale prices, rose 0.7 percent in March, compared to the 0.4 percent increase seen in February. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a 0.6 percent rise in March.
The so-called core PPI, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, gained 0.1 percent. Economists had forecast a 0.2 percent rise in the core PPI in March.
The tame core PPI figure could help allay inflation concerns stoked by lofty oil prices, which helped drive the overall number higher.
"The number looks pretty much in line. Ex-food and energy was better than expected," Brian Williamson, vice president at The Boston Co. Asset Management, told Reuters. "The focus is on earnings now this economic number is out of the way. The market looks to be doing OK off the get-go here."
The core measure is considered more important for monetary policy and added to speculation the Federal Reserve would not have to be more aggressive in raising interest rates.
"On the whole this will assuage some of the concern that's been bubbling up about inflation since the start of the year and should keep the Fed on its measured path for now," Richard Dekaser, chief economist at National City Corp. in Cleveland, told Reuters.
Long-term bond prices edged higher following the report, reflecting that bond traders felt some relief from inflation fears. Inflation hurts bonds as it erodes the value of fixed-income investments.
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