U.S. import prices recorded their biggest drop in six years in January as the cost of petroleum and a range of other goods fell, a sign that domestic inflation pressures could remain muted for a while.
The Labor Department said on Friday import prices tumbled 2.8 percent last month, the largest decline since December 2008, after sliding by a revised 1.9 percent in December. It was the seventh straight month of declines in import prices.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices falling 3.2 percent last month after a previously reported 2.5 percent drop in December.
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In the 12 months through January prices declined 8.0 percent, the largest year-on-year drop since September 2009.
Crude oil prices have plunged nearly 60 percent since June as increased shale production in the United State and weak global demand caused a glut on the market.
At the same time, the dollar has strengthened significantly against the currencies of the country's main trading partners, helping to pull inflation further away from the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target.
Despite low inflation, the U.S. central bank is widely expected to start raising interest rates in June, given a rapidly tightening labor market. The Fed has kept its short-term interest rate near zero since late 2008.
Data next week is expected to show producer prices fell for a third straight month in January.