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    • Fuel Costs Push U.S. Import Prices Higher In February
    • Andy Mar 22

      With prices for fuel imports in the U.S. showing another significant increase in the month of February, the Labor Department released a report on Tuesday showing continued growth in total import prices. Export prices also showed a notable increase.

      The report showed that import prices rose by 1.4 percent in February following a 1.3 percent increase in January. Economists expected import prices would rise 0.8 percent.

      Excluding a 4.0 percent jump in prices for fuel imports, import prices rose by a much more modest 0.3 percent. Fuel prices surged amid political upheaval in the Middle East.

      Import prices advanced 6.9 percent for the year ended in February, driven by a 7.0 percent jump for the index over the past five months.

      The year-over-year rise in February was the largest 12-month advance since an 8.5 percent increase for the year ended in May 2010, the Labor Department noted.

      On an annualized basis, food costs rose at the fastest pace in more than thirty years.

      Fuel prices rose 18.6 percent over the past 12 months, led by a 20.6 percent jump in petroleum prices. Natural gas prices remained down sharply compared to February 2010, even after rising 23.4 percent in the first two months of the new year.

      Additionally, the Labor Department said that export prices increased by 1.2 percent in February after rising by 1.3 percent in January. Export prices rose by a more modest 0.9 percent excluding a 4.4 percent jump in prices for agricultural exports.

      Analysts pointed out that the data does not account for the impact of Friday's catastrophic earthquake in Japan. Risky assets such as crude oil have sold off in recent days amid concerns that the earthquake could derail the fragile global economic recovery.

      "Because of the tragedy in Japan, all the economic data we now see should be viewed as old news in that it hasn't captured what impact the global economy will now see," noted Peter Boockvar, Managing Director at Miller Tabak + Co.

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