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U.S. import prices rising fastest since 2012

Staff Writer |
The cost of imported goods surged in January for the third time in four months and they are climbing at the fastest pace in five years.

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Import prices rose 0.4% last month after a revised 0.5% gain in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Over the past 12 months import prices have advanced 3.7%, the highest level since 2012. Until very recently, import-related inflation had been negative because of a big drop in oil prices from 2014 through early 2016.

Prices for import fuel rose 5.8 percent in January following an increase of 6.6 percent in December.

In January, higher prices for both petroleum and natural gas contributed to the overall rise in fuel prices. Petroleum prices rose 5.2 percent and natural gas prices increased 12.2 percent in January, after both indexes advanced in the previous month.

Import fuel prices increased 57.6 percent over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year rise since the index advanced 61.7 percent in March 2010. Petroleum prices rose 60.9 percent for the year ended in January and natural gas prices advanced 45.0 percent over the same period.

In contrast to fuel prices, import nonfuel prices decreased 0.2 percent in January, after edging down 0.1 percent in December and November. The price index for nonfuel imports has not recorded a monthly increase since a 0.3-percent rise in July 2016.

The January drop was led by lower prices for foods, feeds, and beverages and each of the major finished goods categories, which more than offset higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials.

Nonfuel import prices recorded no change over the past 12 months.

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