WHOLESALE FINISHED FOODS PRICES RISE 0.4%

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Wholesale prices for finished consumer foods increased 0.4% in August, following a 0.9% decline in July, the Labor Department reported Friday.Compared with 1998, prices increased by 2.3%. Wholesale food prices have continued to increase on a year-over-year basis since December 1998.Pork prices buoyed the month's figures, increasing 7.1%, after falling 3.8% in July. Prices for beef

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Wholesale prices for finished consumer foods increased 0.4% in August, following a 0.9% decline in July, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Compared with 1998, prices increased by 2.3%. Wholesale food prices have continued to increase on a year-over-year basis since December 1998.

Pork prices buoyed the month's figures, increasing 7.1%, after falling 3.8% in July. Prices for beef and veal and fresh and dry vegetables fell less than they did a month ago, while the indexes for dairy products and soft drinks rose more than in July.

Beef and veal prices dropped 0.7% after falling 3.4%, while fresh and dry vegetable prices dropped 5.3% after falling 8.1%. Dairy product prices were up 1.2%, after a 0.4% increase in July. Soft drink wholesale prices were up 1.1% after a 0.1% increase last month.

Prices for eggs for fresh use increased 2.8% in August, following a 7.1% advance in July. The indexes for roasted coffee and processed fruits and vegetables fell by 0.1% and 0.5% respectively, after showing no change in July. Prices for finfish and shellfish dropped by 0.45% after increasing by 0.8% last month.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, wholesale prices for all finished goods increased 0.5% for the month, following a 0.2% advance in July and a 0.1% decrease in June. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the index fell 0.1%, after showing no change in July. Compared with year-ago levels, the finished goods index increased 2.3%, not seasonally adjusted.

Larry Horowitz, senior economist with Primark Decision Economics in Boston, said the tame report could stave off another interest rate hike.

"The general news was that prices were very calm," Horowitz said, noting that the only evidence of price pressure was in intermediate goods, where prices for some commodities continue to show increases. "But when you get right down to the goods side of the equation, everything is fairly good outside of energy," he added.

Energy goods posted a 3.7% gain in August after a 3.4% rise in July, with gasoline prices spiking 9.1% after a larger 12.7% rise in July. Heating oil posted a 5.3% gain after July's stronger 15.2% gain.

Crude products, or raw materials, rose 4.6% in August spurred by a 25.7% rise in the price of corn, the largest rise since a 29.3% gain seen in June 1988. Other raw materials also rose sharply, including a 13.3% increase in soybeans and a 10.6% gain in natural gas.