US import prices rise moderately in February

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 8:00 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. import prices increased marginally in February as a surge in the cost of petroleum products was partially offset by modest gains elsewhere, which bodes well for the inflation outlook.

Import prices rose 0.3% last month after an unrevised 0.8% jump in January, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday. The increase in import prices, which exclude tariffs, was in line with economists’ expectations.

In the 12 months through February, import prices dropped 0.8% after declining 1.3% in January. Government data this week showed both consumer and producer prices increased strongly for the second consecutive month in February.

Financial markets still expect the Federal Reserve to start cutting interest rates by June, though firmer inflation readings, if sustained, could delay the expected easing in borrowing costs until the second half of the year.

Since March 2022, the Federal Reserve has raised its policy rate by 525 basis points to the current 5.25%-5.50% range.

Imported fuel prices shot up 1.8% in February after rebounding 1.2% in the prior month. The cost of imported food increased 1.1% after advancing 1.7% in January.

Excluding fuels and food, import prices gained 0.1%. These so-called core import prices increased 0.7% in January. They fell 0.7% on a year-on-year basis in February.

Prices for imported capital goods rose 0.2% last month after increasing 0.4% in January. The cost of motor vehicles, parts and engines edged up 0.1%.

Imported consumer goods prices excluding automotives climbed 0.3% after surging 1.2% in January.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)