Prices for foreign-made goods imported to the U.S. rose in April at their slowest pace in three months, the latest sign of soft inflationary pressures in the domestic economy.
Import prices rose 0.2% in April from the previous month, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The increase was far smaller than the 0.6% gain forecast in a Wall Street Journal survey of economists.
Data on import prices are not adjusted for seasonality and exclude any taxes, such as tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on a variety of goods over the past year.
Compared with April 2018, import prices were down 0.2%.
The import-price index was the third set of April inflation data released in recent days that fell short of economists’ expectations, reinforcing the Federal Reserve’s recent concerns about softening price pressures.
The Labor Department said last week its closely watched consumer-price index rose 0.3% from March, while the producer-price index climbed 0.2%. Both increases were 0.1 percentage point below economists’ expectations.
Import prices last month were held down by a 0.6% decline in non-petroleum imports. Within this category of goods, the most striking components were capital goods and “non-petroleum industrial supplies and materials,” both of which saw the biggest price declines since 2009.
Prices for fuel imports, meanwhile, rose 2.5% in April from March, as higher prices for crude oil and petroleum products offset a sharp decline in prices for imported natural gas.
Prices for nondurable consumer goods fell 0.2%, while prices for autos and parts fell 0.1%
Policy makers at the Federal Reserve use the import-price index, along with other price measures, to gauge inflationary pressures in the U.S. economy.
Tuesday’s report also showed prices for U.S. exports rising 0.2% in April from March and increasing 0.3% from a year earlier.