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P.M. BRIEFING : White House Dismisses Inflation Fears, Will Not Change Policies

<i> From Times wire services </i>

The White House, seeking to quell economic jitters, insisted today that there is no reason to believe a recent rise in prices portends a “long-term rise in inflation” warranting a change in its own policies.

“Our analysis shows any number of conflicting economic statistics have come out in recent days,” White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater told reporters. “Many of them show somewhat slowing of the economy and pressures against inflation.”

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 48.57 points Friday after a report that the Producer Price Index, a gauge of wholesale prices, shot up 1% in February. The news deepened concern on Wall Street of a further rise in short-term interest rates.

In advance of what could be an important report Tuesday on consumer prices, Fitzwater said Bush has seen no need to revise the economic assumptions underlying his budget proposals. “The Producer Price Index showed an increase that requires us to be concerned and, as the President said, be eternally vigilant in watching inflation,” Fitzwater said, “but there are also a number of other factors--retail sales, housing starts, etc.--that indicate inflation may be going the other way. At this point, we see no long-term rise in inflation.”

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