U.S. import prices increased more than expected in April amid rising costs for petroleum products and a range of other goods, which could help boost domestic inflation.
The Labor Department said on Wednesday that import prices jumped 0.5 per cent last month after an upwardly revised 0.1 per cent gain in March. Import prices have now increased for five straight months.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices increasing 0.2 per cent in April after a previously reported 0.2 per cent drop in March.
In the 12 months through April, import prices rose 4.1 per cent, slowing from March’s 4.3 per cent increase. Import prices shot up 4.7 per cent on a year-on-year basis in February, the biggest gain in five years.
Prices of U.S. Treasuries pared gains after the data. The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies while U.S. stock index futures were mixed.
In April, prices for imported petroleum rebounded 1.6 per cent after declining 0.4 per cent in March. Import prices excluding petroleum gained 0.4 per cent, the biggest increase since July 2016, after edging up 0.1 per cent in the prior month.
Import prices excluding petroleum have now risen for four straight months, in part reflecting an ebb in the U.S. dollar’s rally. Import prices excluding petroleum rose 1.4 per cent in the 12 months through April, the largest increase since March 2012.
The steady rise in underlying import prices could over time put upward pressure on consumer inflation. A report on Friday is expected to show consumer prices rebounding 0.2 per cent in April after falling 0.3 per cent in March, according to a Reuters survey of economists.
Prices for imported capital goods nudged up 0.1 per cent in April, rising for a third straight month. The cost of imported motor vehicles surged 0.5 per cent, the biggest gain in five years.
Prices for imported consumer goods prices excluding automobiles rose 0.1 per cent, while the cost of imported food increased 0.3 per cent. The cost of goods imported from China dipped 0.1 per cent last month after rising 0.2 per cent in March.
Import prices from China fell 1.2 per cent on a year-on-year basis. They have not risen on a yearly basis since October 2014.
The report also showed export prices increased 0.2 per cent in April after rising 0.1 per cent in March. Export prices rose 3.0 per cent year-on-year after increasing 3.4 per cent in March.
Prices for agricultural exports advanced 0.3 per cent last month as a record 37.9 per cent jump in vegetable prices offset falling prices for soybeans, corn and wheat. In the 12 months through April, agricultural export prices rose 4.6 per cent.
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