WASHINGTON, April 11 U.S. import prices fell in
March as weak petroleum costs offset a spike in food prices,
according to a government report on Thursday that pointed to
benign inflation pressures.
Import prices slipped 0.5 percent last month, the Labor
Department said. February's data was revised to show a 0.6
percent rise instead of the previously reported 1.1 percent
Economists polled by Reuters had expected prices to fall 0.5
percent last month. In the 12 months to February, import prices
dropped 2.7 percent.
Stripping out petroleum, import prices dipped 0.1 percent,
reflecting a strengthening in the inflation adjusted
trade-weighted dollar index during the month.
The tame inflation environment should allow the Federal
Reserve to stay on its ultra-easy monetary policy course as it
tries to nurse the economy back to health.
Minutes of the March 19-20 meeting released on Wednesday
showed the U.S. central bank was moving closer to ending its
monthly $85 billion purchases of mortgage and Treasury bonds
that are intended to keep rates low and spur faster job growth.
Last month, imported petroleum prices fell 1.9 percent after
rising 3.0 percent in February. Imported food prices jumped 1.3
percent after rising 1.2 percent the prior month.
Elsewhere, imported capital goods prices fell 0.1 percent
after being flat in February.
The Labor Department report also showed export prices fell
0.4 percent last month. Export prices had increased 0.7 percent
Export prices were last month weighed down by declines in
prices for industrial supplies and materials. Prices for
nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials also fell as
did prices for consumer goods excluding automobiles.