U.S. Import Prices Fell in May

Overall prices for foreign goods shipped to the U.S. dropped more than expected in May, another sign of faltering inflation.

Import prices decreased 0.3% in May from a month earlier, the steepest decline since the index dropped 0.5% in February 2016, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 0.1% decrease last month. Unlike many economic indicators, import prices are not adjusted to smooth out seasonal variations.

Over the past year, overall import prices rose 2.1%, the seventh consecutive month of year-over-year price growth.

May's fall in import prices reflected a decline in the price of imported petroleum, which fell 3.9% from April. Outside of petroleum, import prices were unchanged last month.

The import-price index is one of several gauges the Federal Reserve studies to understand how quickly prices are rising in the U.S. The Fed's preferred inflation gauge, the Commerce Department's personal-consumption-expenditures index, advanced 1.7% in April from a year earlier, down from 1.9% in March. Despite some concerns about recent soft inflation data, the Fed decided to lift its benchmark short-term interest rate at its meeting on Wednesday.

Thursday's report also showed prices for U.S. exports decreased an average of 0.7% in May from a month earlier. From a year earlier, export prices were up 1.4%.

The Labor Department report on import and export prices can be accessed at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ximpim.toc.htm.

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 15, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)