Wholesale prices rose a preliminary 1.5 percent in July from a year earlier for the 17th straight month of gain, due mainly to higher energy prices, the Bank of Japan said Wednesday.

The prices, gauged by the BOJ’s corporate goods price index, came to 97.9 against the base of 100 for 2000, the central bank said in a preliminary report.

The 1.5 percent gain in July follows rises of 1.4 percent in June and 1.8 percent in May.

On a month-to-month basis, wholesale prices rose 0.6 percent from June, after declines in the previous two months.

The index rose 0.2 percent year on year in March 2004 for the first gain since July 2000. It has been rising since then, fueling optimism that Japan may be pulling out of deflation. But there is little evidence the rise is being fueled by domestic demand.

The index’s rise this July was mainly due to a 20.4 percent jump in the prices of petroleum products, including gasoline, and coal products, as well as an 11.0 percent increase in prices of steel, the bank said.

Prices for nonferrous metal rose 10.6 percent, while those of chemical products climbed 5.1 percent. In contrast, electrical equipment prices fell 3.8 percent.

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