U.S. import prices rose 0.2 percent in June, as opposed to the 0.5 percent increase that economists had forecast. The rise is reportedly due to higher oil prices, offset by lower prices for consumer goods.
After an unrevised 1.4 percent hike in May, in June prices on imports, which include foreign products like Middle Eastern oil and cars built in Asia, rose only 0.2 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said on July 13, CNBC reports.
Economists that had been polled by Reuters were predicting a price raise of 0.5 percent. U.S. financial markets were not severely impacted by the newly released data.
The July 13 report also showed U.S. export prices growing 0.8 percent in June, the third month in a row that prices have risen. Prices for agricultural exports, such as corn and soybeans, rose by 2.4 percent.
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Import prices are one of a variety of ways that the Federal Reserve gauges inflation and economic growth. The Federal Reserve has been looking at rising inflation as a sign of the economy growing at a healthy rate, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Fed's target for inflation is a 2 percent growth rate annually.
Import prices are still down 4.8 percent overall since June 2015, but in the short term, they are trending higher: From February through May, prices on U.S. imports grew at the highest rate over any three-month period since 2011.
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen has said that she wants to see signs of economic stability, such as a steady increase in inflation, before the Fed raises short-term interest rates any further. Interest rates have been kept historically low since the recession in order to stimulate economic growth.
The Federal Reserve has given indications that it might raise rates starting this summer, although analysts have predicted that they will wait until after a September meeting.
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"Core inflation has been held down by falling import prices, owing in large part to the rise in the dollar, as well as the indirect effects of lower oil prices," said the Fed's Jerome Powell in a June speech.
"If the dollar and oil prices remain broadly stable going forward, inflation should move up over time to our 2% objective."