U.S. Inflation Rears Its Ugly Head: What You Need to Know

The big macro can cause big moves in the market. What does today's headline macro news mean for your portfolio?

What's happening: The U.S. Producer Price Index for finished goods rose 0.8% in September after no change in August. The index is up 6.9% from a year ago.

In plain English, please: The PPI measures the prices that producers of goods get for their wares -- as opposed to the Consumer Price Index, which measures the prices that consumers end up paying. The PPI is one of the key inflation measures to watch because if the prices that producers are getting are rising, consumers can generally expected that higher prices are coming their way at some point.

Looking at the headline number for a measure like this hardly tells the whole story, though. Since the PPI measures across all industries, there can be significant divergences when we drill down on that data. For example, in September, textiles, apparel, and energy products like oil and coal saw heady price increases while electrical equipment and metals notched lower prices.

That said, there's little that's comforting about the 6.9% year-over-year increase in finished goods prices.

Stocks to watch: An interesting area for consumers and investors to watch is consumer packaged goods companies like PepsiCo (NYS: PEP) , Coca-Cola (NYS: KO) , Sara Lee (NYS: SLE) , and Kraft (NYS: KFT) . These companies have been raising prices to offset rising commodity prices, and those price hikes are showing up in some of the data we're seeing here. Interestingly though, prices for crude food goods -- which are input costs for these companies -- actually fell in September. Food prices are highly volatile, but if that moderation continues, it could be very welcome news for these companies.

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