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) -- Wholesale prices edged up at a higher-than-expected rate in January, propelled by a surge in energy prices.

The producer price index, which acts as an indicator of inflation, rose a seasonally adjusted 1.4% last month, as reported by the Labor Department on Thursday. Analysts had expected a much less steep 0.8% advance, according to consensus estimates provided by

. The change also topped the 0.4% increase posted in December.

After stripping out food and energy costs, however, so-called "core" prices ticked up by only 0.3%. But again, that showing topped Street forecasts calling for a 0.1% bump higher.

Stock futures pointed to a lower open after the release of the data. A separate report from the Labor Department was also adding to the dour premarket sentiment, as the number of

initial jobless claims tracked higher by 31,000 last week.

Futures for the

S&P 500

were recently down 4.29 points and were 2.41 points below fair value, while futures for the


were slipping 5.75 points and were 4.06 points below fair value just ahead of the opening bell.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York