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KAI RYSSDAL: Dear Mr. Bernanke,

Thank you so much for your recent decision to leave short term interest rates alone. I noticed this morning wholesale inflation has pretty much stopped. Do you think that means you might be done with rates for a while? Wall Street certainly thinks so.

From American Public Media, this is Marketplace. From the Frank Stanton Studios in Los Angeles. I’m Kai Ryssdal. It’s Tuesday today, the 15th of August. Great to have you with us.

OK, so it wasn’t quite “‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” But today’s report on inflation at the wholesale level looked a lot like Christmas to Wall Street. The Core Producer Price Index fell three-tenths of one percent last month. That’s the biggest drop since October. And the biggest chunk of that came to us courtesy of Detroit.

Diane Swonk’s the chief economist at Mesirow Financial. She points out carmakers were offering discounts at an unusual time.

DIANE SWONK: Historically this is when they start rolling out their new model year vehicles and we usually see a pick-up in prices not a decline in prices. So although this number is certainly welcome news to a market that’s been concerned about inflation, welcome news to the Federal Reserve, it’s only one piece of a very complex puzzle.

We’ll get another piece tomorrow morning, the Consumer Price Index. That’s inflation for you and me, but it might not help all that much in finishing the big picture.

Here’s Diane Swonk again.

SWONK: Remember inflation is more of a backward- than forward-looking indicator and as we’ve unfortunately learned, these indicators are only flashlights into an increasingly dense forest of economic information both at home and abroad.

Great. So we’re all alone in the woods with scary economic numbers and only the Fed to guide us out.

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