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Wholesale prices, or what the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calls the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand, rose for the third time in four months in December.

Last month's seasonally adjusted increase of 0.3% follows an advance of 0.4% in November and no change in October. For all of 2016, wholesale prices were up 1.6% after falling 1.1% the year before.

Almost 80% of the December increase came from an increase of 0.7% in prices for goods. Within that category, energy prices were up 2.6%, with gasoline costs surging 7.8%. In addition, prices for light motor trucks, jet fuel, iron and steel scrap, chicken eggs, and liquefied petroleum gas also increased. The cost of fresh fruits and melons plunged 13.6%.

The cost of services inched up 0.1%. Roughly 70% of that can be attributed to prices for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing, which rose 0.2 percent. Prices for transportation and warehousing services, on the other hand, dipped 0.4%.

Prices for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services -- the “core” rate of inflation -- was up 0.1% in December. For the year as a whole, the core jumped 1.7% following an increase of 0.3% in 2015.

The complete report may be found on the BLS website

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Initial jobless claims

The year got started with a surge in the number of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims jumped by 10,000 in the week ending January 7 to a seasonally adjusted 247,000.

Even with that increase, the initial claims total has remained under 300,000 for 97 consecutive weeks -- the longest streak since 1970.

The four-week moving average, considered by may economists to be a more accurate gauge of the labor market because of its lack of volatility, was down 1,750 to 256,500.

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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