Import Prices Up 0.4 Percent

The price of goods imported into the United States rose an expected 0.4 percent last month as the cost of imported foods shot up, a government report showed on Thursday.

It was the fifth consecutive monthly rise in import prices and followed a hefty revised jump of 1.5 percent in January, the Labor Department (search) said. January's rise was initially reported as 1.3 percent.

The cost of petroleum imports edged up just 0.2 percent, after an outsized 8.2 percent gain a month earlier, while non-petroleum import prices climbed 0.4 percent, the fourth straight monthly advance.

The February increase in import prices matched expectations on Wall Street.

Imported food costs rose 1.6 percent and the price of industrial supplies and materials gained 0.9 percent.

Elsewhere, import prices were little changed. Capital goods prices (search) were flat, as were non-auto consumer goods. Auto prices were up just 0.1 percent.

A two-year slide in the value of the dollar has helped push U.S. import prices up, but only modestly, limiting the upward pressure on inflation.

Officials at the Federal Reserve (search) said the slide in the dollar appeared to have had only muted impact on import prices because foreign producers were willing to forego some profits to maintain market share.

Over the last 12 months, non-petroleum import prices have risen 1.8 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 0.6 percent last month, both overall and when agricultural exports were stripped out.