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The producer price index (PPI), formerly the wholesale price index, rose a moderate 0.5 percent in March over February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the moderate increase in wholesale prices, along with the slowdown in industrial production, also reported Friday, would help relieve pressure on interest rates.

March's wholesale inflation level, annualized at 6.1 percent, follows four rising months after a slight dip in November. The PPI, leading the consumer price index by several months, signals average consumer inflation in the range expected by many analysts.

The March PPI (measured against a 1967 level of 100) stood at 291.6, seasonally adjusted.

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