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U.S. import prices drop more than expected on petroleum, food

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. import prices fell more than expected in October, pulled down by declines in the prices of petroleum products and food, suggesting imported inflation could remain subdued for a while.

The Labor Department said on Friday import prices dropped 0.5% last month. Data for September was revised lower to show import prices gaining 0.1% instead of climbing 0.2% as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices slipping 0.2% in October. In the 12 months through October, import prices fell 3.0%, the biggest decline since July 2016, after decreasing 2.1% in September.

That suggests inflation could remain moderate despite an increase in overall consumer and producer prices in October.

The Federal Reserve last month cut rates for the third time this year and signaled a pause in the easing cycle that started in July when the U.S. central bank reduced borrowing costs for the first time since 2008.

Import prices exclude tariffs. In October, prices for imported fuels and lubricants fell 2.9% after increasing 1.5% in the prior month. Petroleum prices tumbled 3.7% after rising 1.5% in September. Imported food prices declined 0.4% after falling 0.8% in September.

Excluding fuels and food, import prices slipped 0.2% last month after being unchanged in September. The core import prices fell 1.3% in the 12 months through October.

The cost of imported capital goods dipped 0.1% in October. The price of imported motor vehicles and parts was unchanged last month. Prices for imported consumer goods excluding automobiles slipped 0.1%.

The cost of goods imported from China edged down 0.1% in October after falling by the same margin in September. Prices dropped 1.6% in the 12 months through October.

The report also showed export prices dipped 0.1% in October after falling 0.2% in the prior month. Export prices decreased 2.2% on a year-on-year basis in October, the most since August 2016, after falling 1.6% in September. (Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)