U.S. import prices fall on oil, industrial supplies

Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:19am EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. import prices unexpectedly fell in July for the fourth straight month as costs declined for imported oil, industrial supplies and even many consumer goods, further icing inflation pressures.

Overall import prices dropped 0.6 percent last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Import prices have only risen once in the last eight months.

Analysts had expected import prices would rise 0.1 percent in July, and the decline could give the U.S. Federal Reserve more scope to ease monetary policy if policymakers think the economy needs it.

Still, an increase in the pace of hiring in July has led some economists to think the Fed might not be ready for a new round of bond purchases, a monetary easing strategy known as quantitative easing.

Even with import prices sagging, "people are still going to wonder whether the Fed will embark into another round of quantitative easing," said Robbert Van Batenburg, head of global research at Louis Capital Markets in New York.

Despite the downward trend in prices, analysts pointed out that much of the decline has been due to a drop in the cost of oil.

"At the core level, declines in prices are unlikely to be significantly felt at the consumer level," said Peter Newland, an economist with Barclays Capital in New York.

Prices fell for goods and services bought from most of America's major trading partners, including China, Mexico and the European Union. That could be a sign of the recent cooling in the global economy, which has been largely caused by Europe's debt crisis.   Continued...

Shipping containers are seen at the Port Newark Container Terminal near New York City July 2, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar