U.S. Import, Export Prices Climb in January

U.S. import prices rose a touch more than expected in January as petroleum and food rebounded strongly, a government report showed on Tuesday, but underlying imported inflation pressures remain muted.

Overall import prices increased 0.3 percent, the Labor Department said, after slipping 0.1 percent in December.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected prices to rise 0.2 percent last month. The rise in import prices last month could also reflect a weak dollar. The dollar fell 0.6 percent on a trade-weighted basis.

Stripping out food and fuels, import prices dipped 0.1 percent - pointing to benign inflation pressures - after rising 0.2 percent in December.

The Federal Reserve last month viewed inflation as largely contained and said it expected to hold interest rates near zero at least through late 2014.

Data on Thursday is expected to show that energy costs pushed wholesale prices up 0.4 percent last month, according to a Reuters survey, after dipping 0.1 percent in December.

But with growth still slow and unemployment high, producers have little power to pass on the increased costs to consumers.

Imported petroleum prices increased 1.2 percent in January are falling 0.5 percent. Imported food prices jumped 2.3 percent last month after declining 0.4 percent in December.

Elsewhere, imported capital goods prices rose 0.4 percent after advancing 0.3 percent in December. Imported motor vehicle prices climbed 0.5 percent, the largest gain since May, after being flat in December.

The Labor Department report also showed export prices rose 0.2 percent last month, matching analysts expectations, after falling 0.5 percent in December.