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Ahead of the Bell: US producer prices likely rose in April

May 14, 2015 GMT
FILE - In this March 31, 2015 file photo, Chuck Barrett helps a customer load 2x4's at the Allegheny Millwork and Lumberyard in Pittsburgh.   Economists forecast that the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, were unchanged last November, according to a survey by data firm FactSet, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
FILE - In this March 31, 2015 file photo, Chuck Barrett helps a customer load 2x4's at the Allegheny Millwork and Lumberyard in Pittsburgh. Economists forecast that the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, were unchanged last November, according to a survey by data firm FactSet, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
FILE - In this March 31, 2015 file photo, Chuck Barrett helps a customer load 2x4's at the Allegheny Millwork and Lumberyard in Pittsburgh. Economists forecast that the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, were unchanged last November, according to a survey by data firm FactSet, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Labor Department reports on U.S. producer prices in April at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Thursday.

TICKING UP: Economists forecast that the producer price index rose a modest 0.1 percent last month, according to a survey by FactSet, yet it would be the second consecutive increase after four months of declines.

The index measures the prices of goods and services before they reach the consumer.

A LITTLE INFLATION: Producer prices have dropped six of the last eight months, largely because gasoline prices went into a freefall in late 2014 and early 2015. Gas prices, however, have bounced back in recent weeks, pushing overall prices a bit higher. In March, the producer price index rose 0.2 percent, though it was still down 0.8 percent from a year earlier — biggest 12-month drop in the four years since the government updated the way it calculates the index.

Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the core index rose 0.2 percent in March and is expected to rise 0.1 percent in April.

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FED SCRUTINY: Federal Reserve officials are monitoring measures of inflation as they weigh whether to raise the short-term interest rate they control. They have kept it near zero for more than six years. Fed officials say they want to “reasonably confident” that inflation is headed toward their 2 percent target, which would signal a stronger economy. Many economists predict the Fed won’t raise short-term rates any sooner than September.