WASHINGTON Import prices rose more than expected in October but price hikes for imported oil slowed, pointing to only modest inflation pressures.
Import prices climbed 0.5 percent last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.
Driving the overall gain, the cost of petroleum imports increased 1.3 percent during the month. America imports much of the fuel it consumes, and higher prices at the pump threaten to hurt consumers' pocket books.
But the increase in the cost of imported oil was well below the 4.7 percent gain in September and the 6.2 percent increase in August.
Analysts had expected overall import prices would be flat.
U.S. stock index futures dipped and were on track to post their worst week in five months as the euro zone crisis was seen hitting France and Germany and investors fretted over the possibility the United States could raise taxes and cut government spending in 2013. Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose.
Still, there were signs that foreign suppliers of goods and services had a little more leverage to raise prices last month.
Non-petroleum import prices rose 0.3 percent in October, the biggest gain since March. Prices for imported consumer goods other than cars rose 0.2 percent.
The U.S. economy has shown some signs of perking up in recent months, with consumers spending more readily and housing construction picking up.
Prices for imports from Canada rose 0.5 percent, while those from Mexico gained 0.4 percent. Prices from China, however, dropped 0.3 percent. The three countries are America's biggest trading partners.
Despite stronger consumer spending, factory output in the United States has looked relatively weak, with businesses investing less and exporters troubled by the European debt crisis and the cooling global economy.
In October, export prices were unchanged, the Labor Department said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)