U.S. import prices rebound; underlying trend remains weak

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - U.S. import prices rebounded modestly in November and the underlying trend remained soft, consistent with subdued imported inflation pressures.

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are pictured at Yusen Terminals (YTI) on Terminal Island at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The Labor Department said on Friday import prices increased 0.2% last month, lifted by higher prices for petroleum products, after an unrevised 0.5% decline in October.

Import prices exclude tariffs. Last month’s increase in import prices was in line with economists’ expectations.

In the 12 months through November, import prices decreased 1.3% after dropping 3.0% in October. Inflation has been mixed, with data this week showing a solid rise in consumer prices in November, but no change in producer prices.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept interest rates steady and signaled borrowing costs were likely to remain unchanged at least through next year amid expectations the economy would continue to grow modestly and the unemployment rate remain low.

In November, prices for imported fuels and lubricants increased 2.6% after falling 2.5% in the prior month. Petroleum prices rebounded 1.1% after decreasing 3.3% in October. Imported food prices fell 0.3%, matching October’s drop.

Excluding fuels and food, import prices eased 0.1% last month. The so-called core import prices slipped 0.2% in October. Core import prices declined 1.3% in the 12 months through November.

The cost of imported capital goods fell 0.3% in November. The price of imported motor vehicles and parts ticked up 0.1% last month. Prices for imported consumer goods excluding automobiles were unchanged.

The cost of goods imported from China fell 0.1% in November after a similar drop in October. Prices declined 1.7% in the 12 months through November.

The report also showed export prices gained 0.2% in November after dipping 0.1% in October. Export prices decreased 1.3% on a year-on-year basis in November after falling 2.3% in October.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao