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Almost everything’s more expensive

Alisa Roth Mar 15, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: Government economic reports don’t exist in a vaccuum. So when the Producer Price Index came out this morning there was much cross-tabulating to be done. With what the Fed might do when it meets next week. And what higher prices might do to the all-important consumer. We asked Marketplace’s Alisa Roth to have a look at what today’s report might really mean.

ALISA ROTH: The Producer Price Index went up 1.3 percent last month. That’s how much more businesses were charging each other for all kinds of goods — from toys to cigarettes.

The Producer Price Index is one way the Fed figures out if there’s inflation. And if there’s inflation, well . . .

STEVEN WOOD: The big, big question is what does the Federal Reserve do with interest rates?

Steven Wood is a portfolio strategist at Russell Investments.

STEVEN WOOD: If they do keep them on pause or potentially are going to be lowering them, that’s going to be very good for the equity markets. If, however, the Fed comes to the conclusion that they need to raise interest rates, that would be bad for the market.

He’s guessing that when the Fed meets next week, it’ll leave rates just where they’ve been since August. But producer prices aren’t always in sync with consumer prices. Sometimes retailers sell stuff for less, just to get shoppers to buy it.

Gina Martin is an economist at Wachovia. She says there are some worries about inflation, but . . .

GINA MARTIN: They’re not enormous, they’re just not to a point where the Fed can feel comfortable with easing monetary policy.

Which, to you and me means lowering interest rates.

Tomorrow, the Consumer Price Index comes out. It tells us what we pay for goods and services, and is generally considered a much better sign of what’s going on in the economy.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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