US import prices rebound in April, but trend remains weak

Washington, May 12 (BNA): US import prices rose in April for the first time since late 2022 amid rising fuel costs, but imported inflation pressures remained low.

The Labor Department said on Friday that import prices rose 0.4% last month after falling 0.8% in March. Reuters reported that last month’s increase was the first since December 2022.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected import prices, which do not include tariffs, to rise 0.3 percent. Import prices in the 12 months through April fell 4.8%, matching the decline in March. Import prices have now fallen for three consecutive months year on year.

The government reported this week that annual increases in consumer and producer prices in April were the smallest in more than two years, boosting expectations that the Federal Reserve will halt interest rate increases at next month’s meeting.

The US central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate by 500 basis points to a range of 5.00%-5.25% since March 2022, and indicated last week that it may halt the fastest monetary tightening campaign since the 1980s.

Imported fuel prices rose 4.5% after falling 3.9% in March. It was driven by a 5.7% jump in petroleum prices, which offset a 17.4% drop in natural gas prices. The cost of importing foodstuffs increased by 0.2%.

With the exception of fuel and food, import prices remain unchanged. These core import prices fell 0.5% in March. The weakness of the dollar against the currencies of the main trading partners of the United States, which is likely to prevent further declines in the prices of essential imports.

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The cost of imported capital goods fell by 0.1% for the second month in a row. Prices of imported cars and spare parts have not changed. The cost of consumer goods excluding automobiles rebounded 0.2% after falling 0.3% in March.

Import prices from China fell 0.3%, continuing their decline this year. They were burdened by making cheaper computers and peripherals. Chinese import prices fell 1.9% year-on-year.

The cost of imports from Japan, Canada, Mexico and the European Union rose in April.

The report also showed export prices rose 0.2% in April after declining by 0.6% in March. Agricultural export prices rose 0.4% as higher prices for corn, nuts, meat and vegetables offset lower prices for fruits and soybeans.

Non-agricultural export prices rose 0.2%, supported by industrial supplies and materials as well as capital and consumer goods.

Export prices fell 5.9% year-on-year in April, the sharpest drop since May 2020, after falling 5.2% in March.


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