The numbers: The cost of imported goods shot up in February by the largest amount in nine months, but the increase stemmed entirely from higher fuel prices. Most import prices barely moved, offering more evidence that inflationary pressures in the U.S. are bottled up
The import price index climbed 0.6% last month, the government said Thursday. The main driver: A 5% increase in the cost of fuel such as oil and natural gas.
If fuel is excluded, however, import prices were unchanged.
What’s more, the cost of imports have actually fallen 1.3% in the past 12 months.
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What happened: The cost of industrial supplies and consumer goods rose slightly in February, but prices for imported autos were flat and they declined for food, beverages and capital goods.
U.S. export prices, meanwhile, also rose 0.6%. They are up just 0.3% in the past year, however.
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Big picture: Inflationary pressures in the U.S. have eased since hitting a seven-year high last summer. Earlier this week a pair of reports on consumer and wholesale prices affirmed that inflation appears muzzled.
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Also Read: Wholesale prices creep higher in February, but inflation poses little threat
The subdued rate of inflation has given the Federal Reserve to leeway to halt previous plans to raise interest rates again.
As a result, the cost of borrowing has declined, making it cheaper for consumers and businesses to procure loans for autos, mortgages or investment. That should aid the economy in the coming months.
What they are saying?: “There is little sign in this report to suggest that U.S. tariffs on Chinese exports are leading to higher overall U.S. inflation,” said chief economist Scott Anderson of Bank of the West.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.13% and S&P 500 SPX, +0.10% rose slightly in Thursday trades after a negative opening. The Dow had been dragging down by Boeing BA, -0.77% the past few days amid controversy over its new 737 MAX plane.
The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.48% was flat at 2.62%.