Import Prices Rise Less Than Expected in June

Jochen Eckel/Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON  — U.S. import prices rose less than expected in June as rising costs for petroleum products were offset by declining consumer and capital goods prices, suggesting inflation could remain benign for a while.

The Labor Department said July 13 import prices increased 0.2% last month after an unrevised 1.4% jump in May. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.5% in June.

The modest increase likely reflects the lingering effects of the dollar's surge between June 2014 and December 2015, which continues to dampen imported inflation pressures and keep overall inflation below the Federal Reserve's 2% target.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data.

In the 12 months through June, import prices fell 4.8%, the smallest drop since November 2014.

Last month, imported petroleum prices rose 6.4% after soaring 16.3% in May. Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.3% as the cost of capital goods slipped 0.3% and consumer goods, excluding automobiles, dropped 0.2%.

The cost of imported industrial supplies and materials excluding fuels decreased 0.3%. Imported food prices tumbled 1.3% last month.     The report also showed export prices increased 0.8% in June, after rising 1.2% in May. Export prices fell 3.5% from a year ago.

Prices for agricultural exports increased 2.4%, boosted by higher soybean and corn prices. Prices for nonagricultural exports rose 0.5% last month.

The increase was led by gains in prices for industrial supplies and material, as well as capital goods. But prices for consumer goods exports fell.