U.S. import prices fell for the first time in six months in August on declining petroleum and food costs, pointing to a tame inflation environment that could encourage the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates steady next week.
The Labor Department said on Wednesday import prices decreased 0.2 percent in August after an unrevised 0.1 percent gain in July. Last month's drop was the first since February.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices slipping 0.1 percent in August. In the 12 months through August, import prices fell 2.2 percent, the smallest decrease since October 2014, after declining 3.7 percent in July.
Import prices have been constrained by a strong dollar and cheap oil. That, together with sluggish wage growth have left inflation persistently running below the Fed's 2 percent target.
August's weak inflation reading added to a slowdown in job growth and soft manufacturing and services sectors surveys in reducing the likelihood of an interest rate hike at the Fed's Sept. 20-21 policy meeting.