The price of goods imported to the United States rose a higher-than-expected 0.9 percent in January, driven by higher petroleum costs, a government report showed on Thursday.

Wall Street analysts had expected a 0.7 percent rise in import prices (search) after declines in November and December.

The Labor Department (search) said petroleum import prices surged 4.6 percent in January after falling 16.8 percent over the prior two months. Over the past year, petroleum import costs have risen 26.9 percent.

Excluding petroleum, import prices climbed a more modest 0.2 percent in January, suggesting inflation pressures remain relatively contained outside the energy sector.

Car import prices fell 0.1 percent, their first decrease since September 2003, while food and beverage costs declined 0.2 percent.

Export prices rose 0.7 percent, more than double analyst expectations for a 0.3 percent gain. Higher fuel and chemical prices led the rise.