The report suggests that despite some recent signs of weak economic growth, Federal Reserve officials are likely to warn that inflation remains the bigger risk when they meet next week. The producer price index for finished goods rose 1.3% in February, the Labor Department said Thursday, after falling 0.6% in January and rising 0.9% in December. The core PPI, which excludes food and energy prices, increased 0.4%, double the previous month's gain. The numbers were well above Wall Street forecasts. The median forecast of 22 economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires was for a 0.6% PPI rise and 0.2% core increase. In the 12 months ending in February, overall wholesale prices rose 2.5%, the highest reading since August 2006. The core PPI was up 1.8% from a year ago. The PPI data may prove worrisome to Fed officials who expect price pressures to be on a downward path in coming months. The Labor Department releases the February consumer price index, a more closely-watched inflation gauge, on Friday. The Fed has held the federal funds rate unchanged at 5.25% for five-straight meetings dating back to August, but has also maintained a bias toward higher rates should inflation pick up. It's widely expected to keep rates steady again at next week's meeting and continue to warn about inflation risks, a scenario that appears even more likely in light of the PPI figures. Thursday's report showed producer prices for energy increased 3.5% last month compared to January. Gasoline swelled 5.3%. Residential natural gas rose 4.1%. Food prices soared 1.9%, the biggest monthly rise since October 2003, due in part to sharply higher prices for fresh fruits and vegetables. Wholesale prices of passenger cars decreased 1.2%, while wholesale light truck prices rose 1.7%. Wholesale cigarette prices rose 4.6%, while prices for toys, games and children's vehicles increased 2.3%, the sharpest monthly rise since 1983. Deeper in the production pipeline, price pressures remained elevated. Prices of raw materials, known as crude goods, rose by 8.9%, while excluding food and energy they increased 2.7%. Intermediate goods prices increased 1.1%, and were up 0.2% excluding food and energy.