Import prices fall for 10th straight month

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. import prices fell for a 10th straight month in April, likely reflecting the impact of a strong dollar, a sign of benign inflation pressures that could encourage the Federal Reserve to delay raising interest rates.

The Labor Department said on Wednesday import prices fell 0.3 percent last month after slipping 0.2 percent in March.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.3 percent.

In the 12 months through April prices fell 10.7 percent.

The dollar, which has gained about 11 percent against the currencies of the United States’ main trading partners since June, and lower crude oil prices are keeping a lid on price pressures.

That has left inflation running well below the Fed’s 2 percent target.

Persistently low inflation gives the U.S. central bank ample room to keep its ultra-low interest rate policy a while longer, while it looks for strong signals of the economy’s recovery after it weakened sharply in the first quarter.

The Fed has kept its key short-term interest rate near zero since December 2008.

Last month, imported petroleum prices rose 1.0 percent after increasing 1.6 percent in March.

Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.4 percent in April after a similar decline in March. Imported food prices slipped 0.9 percent after dropping 0.7 percent in March.

The report also showed export prices declined 0.7 percent last month after edging up 0.1 percent in March. Export prices fell 6.3 percent in the 12 months through April.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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