January producer prices rise 0.8 percent

A Ford Motor Company auto worker stands on the assembly line next to 2008 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUV frames at the Ford Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Michigan August 26, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. producer prices rose faster than expected in January after falling for five straight months as energy costs rebounded, government data showed on Thursday, but inflation pressures generally remained benign.

The Labor Department said the producer price index rose 0.8 percent in January, rising for the first-time since July, compared to a 1.9 percent drop in December.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.2 percent rise in the overall index. However, compared to the same period last year, the producer price index fell 1 percent, the largest decline since October 2006.

Core producer prices, excluding food and energy costs, rose 0.4 percent in January, also above market expectations for an increase of 0.1 percent. Core PPI rose 0.2 percent in December.

Compared to the same period a year ago, core producer prices were up 4.2 percent.

Energy prices surged 3.7 percent in January, halting five months of declines. Gasoline prices jumped 15 percent, the biggest increase since November 2007.

Food prices fell 0.4 percent, with declines in diary and meat costs more than offsetting sharp increases in vegetables.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman