Petroleum, Food Lift US Import Prices in February

Storage tanks are seen at Marathon Petroleum’s Los Angeles Refinery, which processes domestic and imported crude oil into California Air Resources Board (CARB), gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products, in Carson, California, on March 11, 2022. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

WASHINGTON—U.S. import prices increased strongly in February, boosted by strong gains in petroleum and food costs, indicating that inflation would remain uncomfortably high for a while.

Import prices rose 1.4 percent last month after rebounding 1.9 percent in January, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. In the 12 months through February, prices accelerated 10.9 percent after increasing 10.7 percent in January. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices, which exclude tariffs, increasing 1.5 percent.

The data does not capture the jump in prices of oil and other commodities, like wheat, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The report followed on the heels of news on Tuesday that producer prices increased solidly in February, driven by gasoline and food prices. The government last week reported an acceleration in consumer prices in February.

Imported fuel prices increased 6.9 percent last month after rebounding 7.7 percent in January. Petroleum prices shot up 8.1 percent, while the cost of imported food increased 1.5 percent.

Excluding fuel and food, import prices gained 0.6 percent. These so-called core import prices rose 1.1 percent in January. They increased 6.5 percent on a year-on-year basis in February.

The report also showed export prices advanced 3.0 percent last month after rebounding 2.8 percent in January. Prices for agricultural exports increased 3.0 percent. Nonagricultural export prices also advanced 3.0 percent. Export prices increased 16.6 percent year-on-year in February. That followed a 15.0 percent rise in January.

By Lucia Mutikani



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