Oil Pushes U.S. Import Prices Higher

Higher petroleum prices (search) pushed the cost of goods imported to the United States up 0.8 percent in February, slightly more than expected, a government report showed on Friday.

Wall Street analysts had forecast a 0.7 percent increase in U.S. import prices (search) after a downwardly revised 0.7 percent increase in January. Import prices for the previous month were originally reported as a 0.9 percent rise.

Import prices were up 6.1 percent in the 12 months to February.

The cost of petroleum imports advanced 3.9 percent last month following a 3.4 percent January increase. Petroleum import prices have jumped 29.6 percent over the past 12 months despite declining in the final two months of 2004, the government reported.

Excluding petroleum, import prices rose 0.2 percent, driven by higher prices for foods, feeds and beverages, as well as consumer goods and nonpetroleum industrial supplies and materials.

Nonpetroleum import prices have climbed 2.9 percent in the 12 months to February, suggesting inflation pressures remain more contained outside of the energy sector.

Foods, feeds and beverages rose 1.3 percent in February, and 7.3 percent over the past 12 months.

Export prices were unchanged in February, falling short of the 0.4 percent increase expected by economists. A 0.9 percent decline in agricultural export prices offset a 0.2 percent increase in the cost of imported industrial supplies and materials.