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US wholesale prices fall 0.7 pct., most in 3 years

WASHINGTON — Sharp drops in fuel and food costs reduced a measure of US wholesale prices in April by the most in three years.

Outside those volatile categories, inflation stayed tame.

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The producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in April from March, the Labor ­Department said Wednesday.

It was the second straight monthly decline and the steepest since February 2010.

Lower inflation means the Federal Reserve has more leeway to continue its aggressive policies to boost economic growth.

If there were signs that inflation was picking up, the Fed might be forced to raise interest rates.

The index declined largely because gas prices dropped 6 percent and the price of home heating oil fell by the most in almost four years. Food prices also fell 0.8 percent, the most since May 2011.

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