Biz Buzz: Wholesale Inflation Slows, Home Depot Sags, and Other Business News

Producer prices slow in April despite higher-than-expected core prices.

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Producer Prices Slow in April

Inflation took a dive at the wholesale level last month, the Labor Department reported today, but core prices (which exclude food and energy) came in higher than expected. Wholesale inflation increased 0.2 percent in April, down from the 1.1 percent rise registered in March. The producer price index measures prices of goods sold by producers rather than when they are sold to consumers. The 0.4 percent April increase in core wholesale inflation was twice the March increase. Core prices are up 3 percent in the past year, the most since 1991.

James Pethokoukis gave some reasons to not be optimistic about inflation.

Grumpy Airline Passengers

Airline customers are more dissatisfied now than at any time in the past seven years, according to a survey from the University of Michigan. The American Customer Satisfaction Index gave the airline industry a score of 62 out of 100 in satisfaction, the lowest level since 2001. US Airways and United Airlines received the lowest scores in the survey. Continental Airlines got an all-time low score and Northwest Airlines got its lowest since 2001. Yet customer satisfaction with Southwest Airlines actually improved, increasing to a score of 79. Southwest has led the airline industry in the survey for 15 years straight.

Rick Newman wrote about how to deal with airlines when they don't do their job.

Home Depot's Profits Take a Hit

Home Depot's profits fell 66 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, the company reported today. The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer says it earned $356 million in the first three months of the year, down from $1.05 billion in 2007. Revenue dropped 3.4 percent, and same-store sales were off 6.5 percent. The company pointed to the weak housing market as the main culprit for its poor performance. On May 1, Home Depot announced plans to cut 1,300 jobs and close 15 stores, and it abandoned plans to build 50 new stores.

Staples Shows Gains

Staples had a 1.5 percent increase in profits in the first quarter over a year ago, the company said today. Staples, the largest supplier of office products in the world, bounced back after having turned in two straight quarters of declining profits. The company's net first-quarter income rose to $212.3 million, up from $209.1 million in 2007. The increase in profits comes despite a 6 percent drop in same-store sales in North America. International sales, however, rose 19 percent.