U.S. import prices rise, but trend remains muted

Reuters

* Import prices rise 0.2 percent on petroleum

* Prices fall 1.0 percent from a year-ago

* Export prices up for the first time since February

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. import prices rose for

the second straight month in September as the cost of petroleum

increased, but there was no sign of a build-up in imported

inflation pressures.

Import prices rose 0.2 percent last month after a revised

0.2 percent gain in August, the Labor Department said on

Wednesday. Import prices had previously been reported as being

flat in August.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected prices would gain

0.2 percent in September. In the 12 months through September,

import prices fell 1.0 percent. This likely reflects U.S. dollar

strength earlier in the year.

"Underlying inflationary pressures are limited in the U.S.

and no risks of inflation spikes at the final stages of the

price formation chain are expected anytime soon," said Annalisa

Piazza, an economist at Newedge Strategy in New York.

Import prices excluding petroleum were flat from August.

Compared to September last year, they fell 1.0 percent, the

largest drop since November 2009.

The report was originally scheduled for release on Oct. 10

but was delayed after the federal government was partially shut

down because of a fight over the budget. The 16-day shutdown

ended last Wednesday.

The government will release September wholesale and consumer

inflation reports next week.

NO INFLATION PRESSURES

The general lack of imported inflation pressures against the

backdrop of weak global demand and commodity prices should help

the Federal Reserve to maintain its monthly bond purchasing

program into early next year as it tries to nurse a lackluster

economy back to health.

Domestic inflation is also muted and will likely stay that

way for a while as demand remains tepid.

"The Fed has little to fear about inflation," said Joel

Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland,

Pennsylvania. "It is likely that quantitative easing will

continue into next year."

Last month, imported petroleum prices rose 0.8 percent after

rising by a revised 1.9 percent in August. Imported food prices

advanced 0.5 percent after increasing 0.3 percent the prior

month.

Elsewhere, imported capital goods prices were unchanged from

August, as were prices for motor vehicles. Automobile prices

fell 1.2 percent from a year ago, the largest year-over-year

decline since records began in June 1981.

The Labor Department report also showed export prices rose

in September for the first time in seven months, posting a 0.3

percent gain. Export prices had dropped 0.5 percent in August.

Export prices were lifted by agricultural goods, where

prices rose 0.7 percent after steep declines the prior month.

While agricultural export prices rose last month, they fell 6.3

percent from a year-ago. That was the largest year-over-year

decline since October 2009.

Prices for exported industrial supplies and materials rose

0.7 percent from August. There were also increases in the price

of exported fuels, which advanced 0.7 percent. Exported capital

goods prices rose marginally, while autos were flat.

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