Petroleum, food lift U.S. import prices in February

Storage tanks at Marathon Petroleum's Los Angeles Refinery in Carson, California
Storage tanks are seen at Marathon Petroleum's Los Angeles Refinery, which processes domestic & imported crude oil into California Air Resources Board (CARB), gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products, in Carson, California, U.S., March 11, 2022. Picture taken March 11, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Bing Guan

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - U.S. import prices increased strongly in February, boosted by strong gains in petroleum and food costs, indicating that inflation would remain uncomfortably high for a while.

Import prices rose 1.4% last month after rebounding 1.9% in January, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. In the 12 months through February, prices accelerated 10.9% after increasing 10.7% in January. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices, which exclude tariffs, increasing 1.5%.

The data does not capture the jump in prices of oil and other commodities, like wheat, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The report followed on the heels of news on Tuesday that producer prices increased solidly in February, driven by gasoline and food prices. The government last week reported an acceleration in consumer prices in February.

Imported fuel prices increased 6.9% last month after rebounding 7.7% in January. Petroleum prices shot up 8.1%, while the cost of imported food increased 1.5%.

Excluding fuel and food, import prices gained 0.6%. These so-called core import prices rose 1.1% in January. They increased 6.5% on a year-on-year basis in February.

The report also showed export prices advanced 3.0% last month after rebounding 2.8% in January. Prices for agricultural exports increased 3.0%. Nonagricultural export prices also advanced 3.0%. Export prices increased 16.6% year-on-year in February. That followed a 15.0% rise in January.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani

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