A separate report showed U.S. import prices rose more than expected and recorded their largest gain in a year in February as petroleum soared, but there was little sign of a broad pick-up in imported inflation.
The Labor Department said import prices increased 0.9 percent last month, the biggest rise since February last year. January's import prices were revised to show a 0.4 percent increase rather than the previously reported 0.1 percent gain.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.4 percent in February. In the 12 months through February, import prices fell 1.1 percent, indicating overall imported inflation remained subdued. Import prices excluding petroleum rose 0.2 percent in
February after advancing 0.4 percent the prior month. Compared to February last year, they were down 0.6 percent. Petroleum prices rose 4.4 percent, the largest rise since August 2012.
The Labor Department report also showed export prices increased 0.6 percent in February, the largest rise in a year. That followed 0.2 percent rise in January. In the 12 months through February, export prices fell 1.3 percent.