Higher oil prices led U.S. import prices in December to their largest increase since last May.
The Labor Department said Friday the U.S Import Price Index rose by 1.1 last month, the second consecutive monthly increase, with November prices having risen by 0.5 percent.
The price index for overall imports also increased for the fifth straight year in 2006, advancing 2.5 percent after increases of 8.0 percent and 6.7 percent in 2005 and 2004, respectively, the government said.
Export prices rose 0.7 percent in December, after increasing 0.4 percent the previous month.
A 4.8 percent surge in petroleum prices was the largest contributor to the overall December import rise. After dropping by nearly 22 percent in the three months leading up to December, oil prices rebounded. The index rose 6.2 percent overall in 2006, the fifth consecutive year the index advanced, but the smallest annual increase over that period.
Nonpetroleum prices increased 0.4 percent in December after a 0.9 percent advance the previous month. Prices for nonpetroleum imports rose 1.7 percent over the past 12 months after advancing 2.4 percent and 3.7 percent in 2005 and 2004, respectively.
The December increase in nonpetroleum prices was driven by a 1.5 percent rise in nonpetroleum industrial supplies and materials prices. That advance in turn was led by higher prices for natural gas, up for the second consecutive month, metals and chemicals prices. The price index for nonpetroleum industrial supplies and materials increased 4.5 percent over the past year.
The price indexes for consumer goods, capital goods, and foods, feeds, and beverages also contributed to the higher prices for nonpetroleum imports in December. Consumer goods prices rose 0.2 percent in December and 1.2 percent for the year ended in December. Prices for capital goods edged up 0.1 percent after remaining unchanged over the previous four months.
Meanwhile, prices for automotive vehicles decreased 0.1 percent in December, the first downturn for the index since a 0.2 percent drop in January. Despite the December decline, automotive vehicle prices rose 0.6 percent over the past 12 months.
Separately, the Commerce Department said retail sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in December, while November sales were revised lower, to a 0.6-percent increase from the originally reported one-percent gain.