Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Import prices rise 2.8% in March on a tide of oil

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. import prices rose a more-than-expected 2.8% in March as petroleum prices jumped 9.1%, a Labor Department report showed Friday.
U.S. export prices rose 1.5% during the month, also more than expected and the largest monthly gain on record, as prices for farm and food products continued to rise.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 2% rise in import prices in March and a 0.5% rise in export prices.

The larger-than-expected rise in import prices boosted the dollar in early trading after the report. Stronger inflation could limit the Federal Reserve's ability to cut interest rates during the current economic slowdown.

Import prices have risen 14.8% over the last 12 months, the largest year-to-year gain since the Labor Department began publishing the data.

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A large factor was petroleum prices, which have risen 60% over the past year, although prices for food, feed and beverages have increased 14%.

Export prices have risen 7.9% over the last 12 months, also the largest increase on record.

Prices for agricultural exports and food, feed and beverage exports have both risen more than 33% over the past year.

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