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WHOLESALE PRICES JUMPED .6% IN AUGUST, LED BY FOOD AND GAS

Wholesale prices surged 0.6 percent in August, the biggest jump in nearly four years, the government said Friday.

The August advance in the Producer Price Index was broad-based and was led by higher prices for food, gasoline, automobiles and tobacco, the Labor Department said.The rise in the index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, exceeded analysts' predictions and was the largest since it shot up 1.1 percent in October 1990.

Stock and bond prices tumbled immediately after the report. The Dow Jones industrial average opened more than 30 points down, falling to around 3,875.

The price of the benchmark 301/4-year Treasury bond was down about $13 for every $1,000 invested while its yield, which moves in the opposite direction, was at 7.66 percent, up 0.10 point.

Analysts said the Federal Reserve, which has boosted short-term interest rates five times since February, is now practically certain to raise them again before the end of the year.

"Higher inflation guarantees they will have to tighten in either November or December," said economist David Jones of Aubrey G. Lanston & Co., a Wall Street government securities dealer.

"It took a long time in this expansion to start to see inflation. Now we're seeing it come down to hit the consumer's pocketbook," he said.

Inflation and rising interest rates hurt stocks because they eat away at corporate profits. Higher rates hurt the price of bonds because bonds pay a constant interest rate over a specific time period.

The producer price index rose 0.5 percent in July after being unchanged in June. For the first eight months of this year, the index has climbed 2.9 percent at an annual rate and was up 1.9 percent for the past 12 months.

Excluding more volatile food and energy prices, the index rose 0.4 percent in August after edging up 0.1 percent in July and declining 0.1 percent in June.

Most analysts estimated in advance of the report that wholesale prices were up 0.5 percent in August. Economists said they anticipated wholesale prices are rising, following the lead of commodities.

The Labor Department said food prices rose 0.7 percent in August, the biggest advance since they were up 0.8 percent last November. Beef prices shot up 6.9 percent - the biggest jump in nearly a decade - while pork rose 3.3 percent and fish 4.4 percent. But vegetable and fruit prices declined.

Car prices climbed 0.7 percent. Analysts said automakers are cutting discounts as demand for cars increases. Gasoline prices soared 6.8 percent, after rising 8 percent in July. Prices for all energy goods advanced 1.7 percent last month following a 2.5 percent jump in July.