Reuters is reporting that U.S. import prices fell a larger-than-expected 0.4 percent in March as natural gas costs dropped sharply and petroleum prices dipped, Labor Department data showed on Thursday.
The decline was the third in four months and followed a 0.5 percent fall in February. Wall Street analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.1 percent increase in import prices in March. For the 12 months ending in March, import prices climbed 4.5 percent, slower than the 7.2 percent pace notched in the 12 months to February.
Oil prices were the chief driver of the 12-month increase although these numbers have been volatile. Petroleum import prices fell 0.7 percent in March, but are up 22.6 percent over the past 12 months. Nonpetroleum import prices fell 0.3 percent last month and were up a much milder 1.1 percent in the year to March. The Labor Department said an 11.9 percent drop in natural gas prices last month was the main factor behind this decline, more than offsetting higher metals prices. Nonferrous metals gained 3.2 percent in March and have advanced 31.8 percent in the past 12 months.
Export prices rose 0.2 percent in the month, matching Wall Street forecasts.