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MW: U.S import prices rise at fastest pace since 2012
 
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The cost of imported goods rose at the end of 2016 at the fastest pace in four years, largely because of higher oil prices whose recent rise has added to some upward pressure on inflation.

The import price index increased 0.4% in December, the second big move in three months, the government reported Thursday.

For the full year, import prices advanced 1.8%. That’s the biggest 12-month increase since the spring of 2012 and ends almost two and a half years of basically negative import inflation.

Most of the weakness, and now the uptrend, in import prices is tied to large swings in the global cost of oil. Oil prices have ended a two-year slide and are now somewhat higher compared to a year ago.


Yet the cost of most other foreign goods are actually flat to lower. Import prices minus fuel fell 0.2% in December and they are down slightly in the past year.

The cost of imported foods such as cheese and meat as well as foreign autos declined in December. A strong dollar makes these goods cheaper for American consumers to buy.

Oil still plays a big role in the U.S. economy, however, and the rising cost of gas is expected to feed into overall inflation and push it higher from current low levels.

If inflation grows even faster, the Federal Reserve likely would raise U.S. interest rates more rapidly, increasing the cost of variety of loans for businesses and consumers such as mortgages and auto lending.

The price of goods exported by the U.S. to other nations, meanwhile, rose 0.3% in December. Over the past year export prices have climbed a modest 1.1%, held in check by the strong dollar.

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