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US import prices rose 0.3% in April, vs 0.5% increase expected

  • U.S. import prices increased less than expected in April.
  • A rebound in the cost of petroleum products was tempered by a decline in food prices.
  • The Labor Department said on Friday import prices rose 0.3 percent last month.
A cargo ship is guided into the Port of Oakland by a pair of tug boats.
Tim Rue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A cargo ship is guided into the Port of Oakland by a pair of tug boats.

U.S. import prices increased less than expected in April as a rebound in the cost of petroleum products was tempered by a decline in food prices.

The Labor Department said on Friday import prices rose 0.3 percent last month. Data for March was revised to show import prices falling 0.2 percent instead of being unchanged as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.5 percent in April. In the 12 months through April, import prices increased 3.3 percent, matching March's gain.

Last month, prices for imported petroleum rebounded 1.6 percent after declining 2.2 percent in March. Excluding petroleum, import prices edged up 0.1 percent in April after being unchanged in the prior month. Import prices excluding petroleum rose 1.7 percent in the 12 months through April.

The cost of imported food fell 0.4 percent in April, declining for a second straight month, while prices for imported capital goods were unchanged. The cost of imported motor vehicles nudged up 0.1 percent. Prices of consumer goods excluding automobiles gained 0.1 percent.

Import prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials increased 0.7 percent after jumping 1.0 percent in March. They were driven by a 4.0 percent surge in the prices of iron and steel mill products. President Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent import tariff on steel in March to shield domestic producers from what he said was unfair competition.

The cost of goods imported from China slipped 0.1 percent in April after rising 0.2 percent in March. Prices increased 0.2 percent in the 12 months through April.

The report also showed export prices accelerated 0.6 percent in April after gaining 0.3 percent in March. Prices for agricultural products fell 1.2 percent last month, the first drop since December 2017, weighed down by lower prices for soybeans, nuts, and wheat.

Export prices increased 3.8 percent on a year-on-year basis after rising 3.4 percent in March