US producer prices rose modestly in December on higher energy costs, ending two consecutive months of declines, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The producer price index rose 0.4 percent in December, slightly more than the 0.3 percent consensus estimate. Excluding food and energy prices, core PPI rose 0.3 percent, the fourth month of gains. Energy prices jumped 1.6 percent in December, with more than half the increase due to gasoline prices. Food prices fell 0.6 percent. Wholesale inflation remained tame last month on a year-over-year basis. Prices for finished goods rose 1.2 percent from December 2012, compared with a 1.4 percent increase in 2012. Overall inflation long has been well below the central bank's 2.0 percent target despite the Federal Reserve's massive stimulus to support the US recovery from recession.