U.S. jobless claims hover at low levels

July 14, 2016 08:42 AM

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly held at lower levels last week, pointing to further momentum in the labor market after job growth surged in June.

Another report on Thursday showed producer prices recorded their biggest gain in a year in June on rising costs for energy products and services. The data signaled economic strength that could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 254,000 for the week ended July 9, the Labor Department said. Claims are near the 43-year low of 248,000 touched in mid-April.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims rising to 265,000 in the latest week. Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 71 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

The labor market is on a strong footing, with nonfarm payrolls having increased by a robust 287,000 jobs in June, which should underpin economic growth for the rest of the year.

Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell slightly and the dollar pared losses against a basket of currencies after Thursday's data. U.S. stock futures were trading higher.

In a second report, the Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand rose 0.5%  last month, the largest increase since May 2015, after advancing 0.4% in May. 

In the 12 months through June, the PPI increased 0.3%, rising for the first time since December 2014, after slipping 0.1% in May. 

Producer inflation is being boosted by the fading drag from a strong dollar and lower oil prices. 

The dollar's surge between June 2014 and December 2015 put downward pressure on producer prices, helping to keep inflation below the Fed's 2% target.

The greenback's rally appears to be over. The currency has slipped on a trade-weighted basis this year while oil prices have rebounded from multi-year lows.

Last month, energy prices jumped 4.1% after increasing 2.8% in May. Prices for services rose 0.4% after gaining 0.2% in May. Services were boosted by a surge in costs related to securities brokerage and dealing.

Healthcare costs were unchanged as a 0.1% rise in doctor visits was offset by weak home healthcare services.

A key measure of underlying producer price pressures that excludes food, energy and trade services rose 0.3% last month after edging down 0.1% in May. The so-called core PPI was up 0.9% in the 12 months through June. The core PPI increased 0.8% in May.

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