WASHINGTON — Producer prices rose less than economists expected in October, expanding 0.4% as gains were damped by lower auto prices, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Autos also contributed to the first decline in a year for core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, and fell 0.6%. The Labor Department incorporates new model-year autos into the producer price index each October.

Economists expected gains of 0.8% for producer prices and 0.1% for core prices, according to the median estimate in a Thomson Reuters survey. Producer prices rose 0.4% in September while the core increased 0.1%.

Energy prices rose 3.7% in October to post their largest gain since January as gasoline prices surged 9.8%. Producer prices were up 4.3% for the 12-month-period ending in October and core prices were up 1.5%.

“Core measures of inflation continue to decelerate, while the economy struggles to regain its footing after a spring and summer slowdown,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, said in a research note. “The risk is that the economy could dip into another recession if growth doesn’t pick up more measurably by the end of the year.”

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