US producer prices barely rose in November, supporting views that inflation would remain benign in the near term as a flare-up in new COVID-19 infections restrains the labor market and demand for services. While other data on Friday showed a surprise improvement in consumer sentiment early in December, that largely reflected increased optimism among Democrats and Independents following Joe Biden’s electoral victory over President Donald Trump. That is unlikely to translate into robust consumer spending, given business restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak and the accompanying job losses. Millions of unemployed Americans are set to lose their government-funded benefits on Dec. 26, with Congress struggling to agree on another pandemic relief package. “We saw a similar partisan boost to confidence following the 2016 election which was not followed by a spike in consumption, so we doubt this apparent rise in confidence signals a jump in spending either,” said Michael Pearce, a senior US economist at Capital Economics in New York. The producer price index for final demand edged up 0.1% last month after increasing 0.3% in October, the Labor Department said. That was the smallest gain since April. In the 12 months through November, the PPI advanced 0.8% after increasing 0.5% in October. A 0.4% increase in the price of goods accounted for the rise in the PPI. Goods increased 0.5% in October. Services were unchanged after rising 0.2% in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the PPI gaining 0.2% in November and rising 0.8% on a year-on-year basis. The United States is in the midst of a fresh wave of coronavirus infections, pushing the number of confirmed cases to more than 15 million and deaths to over 289,740 since the pandemic started. New strict stay-at-home orders went into effect in California this week. Other states and local governments have also imposed restrictions on businesses. Applications for unemployment benefits jumped to their highest level in nearly three months last week. While the coronavirus pandemic has raised prices of some goods because of supply constraints, it has hurt demand for services like travel and dining out, keeping inflation in check. Millions of people are either underemployed or out of work, limiting wage inflation. In a separate report on Friday, the University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index increased to 81.4 early this month from a final reading of 76.9 in November. Sentiment remains well below its pre-pandemic level. Economists had forecast the index steady at 76.5. Sentiment improved among Democrats and Independents, but fell among Republicans. Consumers expected inflation to moderate significantly in the year ahead. Inflation expectations over the next five years were steady.