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U.S. import prices rise, but inflation pressures still muted

Ships gather off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California February 6, 2015 in this aerial image. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. import prices rose in February after seven months of declines as the cost of petroleum increased, but there was still little sign of imported inflation pressures.

The Labor Department said on Thursday import prices gained 0.4 percent after a revised 3.1 percent plunge in January.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.2 percent after a previously reported 2.8 percent decline in January.

In the 12 months through February prices fell 9.4 percent.

Between June and January, crude prices fell 60 percent on fears of a global oil glut and the refusal of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to cut output. Last month, Brent (LCOc1) stabilized at around $60 and U.S. crude at around $50.

Last month, imported petroleum prices rose 8.1 percent after tumbling 20.6 percent in January. Imported food prices dipped 0.2 percent after sliding 1.6 percent in January.

Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.4 percent in February after January's 0.6 percent drop.

That reflects the dollar's strength against the currencies of the country's main trading partners, which is contributing to keeping inflation below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target.

The Labor Department report also showed export prices dipped 0.1 percent in February after falling 1.9 percent in January.

Export prices dropped 5.9 percent in the 12 months through February.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)