WASHINGTON- U.S. import prices increased more than expected in December, boosted by higher prices for energy products and a weak dollar, suggesting inflation could pick up in the near term.
The Labor Department said on Thursday import prices jumped 0.9% last month after rising 0.2% in November. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices, which exclude tariffs, accelerating 0.7% in December.
In the 12 months through December, import prices slipped 0.3% after dropping 1.0% in November.
Fuel prices shot up 7.8% after increasing 4.8% in November. Imported food prices slipped 0.2%. Excluding fuels and foods, import prices increased 0.4% after being unchanged in November.
The so-called core import prices are rising following the dollar's recent weakness against the currencies of the United States' main trade partners and could keep inflation supported this year. The government reported on Wednesday that consumer prices increased 0.4% in December.
Last month, the cost of goods imported from China rose 0.3% after gaining 0.2% in November. Prices for imported capital goods were unchanged for a third straight month. The cost of imported motor vehicles was also unchanged. But prices for consumer goods excluding autos gained 0.1%.
The report also showed export prices surged 1.1% in December rising 0.7% in November. Prices for agricultural exports increased 0.6% while nonagricultural exports jumped 1.3%. Export prices rose 0.2% on a year-on-year basis in December. That was the first annual increase since last January and followed a 1.1% decrease in November.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani Editing by Chizu Nomiyama) ((Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))