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If trade alarmists and tariff fear-mongers were hoping for a Valentine’s Day gift from Thursday’s producer price inflation report, they’re now nursing broken hearts. For the new numbers from the Labor Department continue the string of official data releases showing that President Trump’s trade curbs on imports of metals and various goods from China have generated no significant inflationary pressure in the economy overall. Indeed, there’s only the scantest evidence that they’ve created upward price pressure even in the products most directly affected.

As has been the case for months for this Producer Price Index (PPI) data – along with the statistics on consumer prices – the most reliable figures are the Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, because they’ve been in place since March. But when it comes to the producer price results – which look at the economy from the wholesale sector’s standpoint – it’s worth examining the China-related data as well, since the first tariffs on producer goods from China were imposed in July. (P.S.: Keep in mind that the new statistics, which bring the story up to January, incorporate an annual set of revisions that in this case impact the seasonally adjusted numbers going back to 2014).

Prices for steel remain elevated through, January, but increases have lost noteworthy momentum. True, they rose sequentially in January by 0.50 percent and their initially reported monthly decline of 0.63 percent in December was revised to a 0.18 percent dip. Moreover, steel prices have risen by 11.02 percent since April – the first full month they were in effect. By contrast, the super-category in the PPI report in which they’re placed – processed goods minus foods and feeds – saw its prices decline by 0.55 percent during that period.

But most of the steel price increases took place over the summer. Since September, they’re down 1.20 percent. That’s not nearly as big a fall-off as for their super-category overall (where prices were off by 3.83 percent during this period). But it’s a decrease nonetheless.

Upon moving to aluminum prices, however, the notion that tariffs have been mainly behind these high and still rising prices breaks down completely – because aluminum pricing trends have been so completely different.

Whereas wholesale steel prices increased on-month in December, wholesale aluminum prices fell – by an unrevised 0.40 percent. Both metals registered a 0.50 percent sequential price rise in January.

But aluminum’s period of strong pricing power was considerably shorter than steel’s, and ended in June. And since that month, they’re down by 6.40 percent. That’s almost double the price slump experienced by its core processed goods super-category (the same as steel’s) – 3.37 percent. So something other than tariffs clearly has been driving the price movements of these metals on the wholesale level.

Important divergences also appear in the data for metals-using industries. Last month, for example, we found that prices for sectors like pumps, compressors, and related equipment; mining machinery and equipment; construction machinery and equipment; and metal-forming machine tools, rose faster on month than prices in their super-category – final demand goods minus food and energy.

In January, these trends continued for construction machinery and that machine tools sector. But the new monthly increases for other metals-using sectors, like agricultural machinery and equipment (0.21 percent), metal-cutting machine tools 0.30 percent), industrial materials handling equipment (0.17 percent), and machine tool parts and mold-making equipment (flat), were considerably weaker, and completely in line or softer than the latest monthly price increase for the core final demand goods category (0.26 percent). That’s significant given recent solid output growth for the entire manufacturing sector, and especially the durable goods industries that rely heavily on metals as inputs.

Nonetheless, increases pushed through earlier in the year helped most metals-using sectors produce price hikes on a January-to-January basis considerably stronger than that for the core final demand goods super-category (2.40 percent).

Switch over to “intermediate demand” goods and you find mixed results, too. Big annual price hikes have been seen in sectors like metal containers, fabricated wire products, and certain kinds of valves (for January, 5.58 percent, 15.56 percent, and 5.77 percent, respectively). These increases all exceeded that for their core intermediate demand super-category (0.97 percent). Yet they were all lower than the December figures (6.46 percent, 16.42 percent, and 6.03 percent). (The intermediates super-category figure was 3.29 percent for that month.) So some inflation momentum has been lost.

Since the metals tariffs were imposed, prices of metal containers have risen 2.01 percent, prices of fabricated wire products have risen 10.16 percent, and prices of those valves are 2.82 percent higher. All these inflation rates are much faster than that of the intermediate demand super-category (where prices overall fell 0.55 percent during that period). But as with the annual figures, they vary considerably, with the wire products sticking out like an especially sore thumb.

The first Trump China tariffs weren’t imposed until early July, so the sample size is smaller. But the case for tariff-led wholesale inflation on this front is just as weak as in the metals-related sectors.

The evidence for tariffs-led producer price inflation is much weaker for goods imported from China – perhaps because the levies haven’t been in place for nearly as long as the metals tariffs. The table below shows the PPI changes for some of the leading products found on the Trump administration’s initial China tariff list. They were imposed on July 6, so the numbers show the cumulative price changes since August. (Note: Because the administration’s Trump announcement used a different classification system than that used in the PPI reports, the below data don’t match up exactly with that tariff list. But the following goods are all at the least main parts of the items on the Trump list, or vice versa. The same holds for the super-category figures used, as with metals tariff-related products, for comparison’s sake.)

                                                                                  Aug.-Dec.            Aug.-Jan.

core processed goods for intermediate demand:   -0.88 percent       -2.50 percent

aircraft engines and engine parts:                         +0.04 percent      +0.44 percent

ball bearings:                                                         +1.01 percent     +1.24 percent

electric generators:                                                +1.61 percent     +1.66 percent

medical, surgical & personal aid devices:            +0.34 percent      +0.93 percent

core commodity final demand                              +0.64 percent      +1.13 percent

industrial heating equipment:                               +1.79 percent      +2.41 percent

oil and gas drilling platform parts:                              0 percent              0 percent

farm machinery and equipment:                           +2.26 percent      +2.55 percent

paper-making machinery:                                     +0.31 percent      +0.52 percent

electricity transformers:                                        +0.12 percent      +0.68 percent

medical, surgical, and personal aid devices:         +0.33 percent      +0.93 percent

X-ray and electro-medical equipment:                  +0.12 percent     +0.37 percent

In a phrase, these results are all over the place – strongly indicating that the tariffs have not been the leading cause of their price changes. The only consistent pattern suggesting a notable tariff effect emerges after comparing the August-December and August-January results. In the core intermediate demand grouping, prices dropped at a faster pace between the two periods. But for the China-related goods, they rose, albeit at different rates.

In the core final demand grouping, prices rose at a faster pace for the super-category, and for all the specific goods within it except for oil and gas drilling platform parts. Interestingly, though, the acceleration for two other sectors – farm machinery and equipment and paper-making machinery – was slower than for the super-category as a whole. In addition, during the latest, August-to-January, period, prices for no less than five of the seven sectors rose more slowly than for the super-category for a whole – again signaling the strong influence of non-tariff factors.

America’s globalist elites haven’t lost credibility solely or even mainly because of trade policy. But that’s surely been part of the mix. And if they want to start regaining some, they might think about admitting that facts really do matter, and that scarcely any of them support their tariff fear-mongering.