Import Prices Up Markedly

The price of goods imported into the United States rose more than expected last month as the cost of a wide range of goods increased, a government report showed on Thursday.

U.S. import prices rose 0.4 percent, their biggest gain since July, the Labor Department (search) said. The cost of petroleum imports climbed 1.1 percent, while non-petroleum import prices were up 0.3 percent.

Economists on Wall Street had expected a milder 0.2 percent rise in import prices.

While price gains were broad-based last month, the cost of auto imports held steady. The price of imported consumer goods (search), excluding cars, rose 0.3 percent, the biggest gain since July 2000.

A nearly two-year slide in the value of the dollar has helped push U.S. import prices up, which would tend to feed into higher inflation.

Over the last 12 months, non-petroleum import prices have risen 1.1 percent. That compares to a record drop of 5.4 percent in the 12-month period ended in January 2002.

The department said export prices rose 0.5 percent last month, with non-agricultural exports up 0.2 percent.