US import prices rise on fuel costs

City A.M. Reporter
US import prices rose for the fifth consecutive month in February as political turmoil in the Middle East helped pushed oil prices higher, a Labor Department report has shown.

Import prices jumped 1.4 per cent, significantly more than the consensus forecast of 0.9 per cent in a Reuters poll of economists.

Fuel import prices accounted for most of the increase, rising four per cent compared to non-fuel prices, which rose 0.3 per cent.

Export prices rose 1.2 per cent, or almost double the consensus estimate of 0.7 per cent, led by a 4.4 per cent rise in agricultural export prices. Food, feed and beverage prices rose 2.8 per cent.

Oil prices rose 3.7 per cent in February and were 20.6 per cent higher than in the same month last year.

Political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa boosted prices on the back of improved US and global economic growth.

The Federal Reserve's policy-setting panel is likely to nod to higher commodity prices in a statement after meeting today but analysts expect officials will not see a grave enough threat to either growth or inflation to alter policy.

Prices for Brent crude have dropped below $110 (£68.30) per barrel for the first time in three weeks as Japan's post-earthquake nuclear crisis weighed on markets.

That was down from a two-and-a-half-year high of $119.79 posted on February 24.