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Consumer and Producer Price Indices

When the price of goods and services rise it is called inflation. Certain levels of inflation in the economy is considered normal and healthy. In contrast, accelerating inflation can cause severe problems, sometimes sparking recession. The Consumer Price Index and the Producer Price Index (PPI) are touted as timely and detailed inflation indicators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates and reports on the CPI and the PPI. These reports are released around the middle of the month following the record month, and the PPI is usually at least one business day before the CPI. These reports are published at 8:30 am ET and can be found on the BLS website.

The CPI tracks the change in price at the consumer level of a weighted basket of a few hundred goods and services. The PPI, also referred to as the wholesale price index, tracks changes in the selling prices of some 3,450 items at various stages of manufacture.

The PPI and CPI indices aren’t generally considered leading indicators. Changes in the price levels do tell a great deal about the microeconomic conditions of individual commodities or industries, however experts warn not to read too much into a single month’s activity.