Although the cost of goods imported into the U.S. fell percent in January due to a steep drop in petroleum import prices, the costs of other imports unexpectedly climbed, the latest indication that inflation accelerated last month.
Import prices fell by 0.2 percent in January, the Labor Department said on Friday. December import prices were revised down from a 0.4 percent gain to a 0.1 percent decline. Economists had expected a smaller 0.1 percent decline in January.
The decline was driven by a steep drop in imported fuel prices. These fell 4.9 percent in January and 4.4 percent in December. Imported petroleum prices fell 4.5 percent in January after falling 7.3 percent in December. Imported natural gas prices fell 11.2 percent, partially unwinding the enormous 42.7 percent increase in December.
Excluding fuel, import prices rose 0.3 percent in January after rising 0.4 percent in December. Economists had been expecting a 0.3 percent decline.
Import prices for capital goods rose 0.3 percent, up from 0.2 percent in each of the previous three months. Industrial and services machinery prices moved higher. Imported car and truck prices rose 0.6 percent after being unchanged in December. Consumer goods prices rose 0.2 percent, up from 0.21 percent in December. Medicinal, dental, and pharmaceutical prices rose 0.8 percent.
This adds to the series of stronger-than-expected data on inflation and consumer demand. On Tuesday, the Labor Department’s consumer price index—which includes prices of imported goods—was reported to have risen 0.5 percent in January, higher than expected. The producer price index—which excludes imports—jumped much higher than expected, rising 0.7 percent. Retail sales jumped three percent, above expectations for a 1.7 percent rise.
Export prices rose 0.8 percent in January, partially reversing the 3.2 percent decline in December. This was the first monthly advance since Junye of last year. Over the past three months, export prices have fallen 10.8 percent annualized. Compared with 12 months ago, export prices are up by 2.3 percent, the smallest 12-month gain since December 2020.