U.S. import prices October 2020

Chinese shipping containers are stored beside a US flag after they were unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, California on May 14, 2019.

Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. import prices unexpectedly fell in October as the cost of petroleum products and a range of other goods declined, suggesting inflation could remain muted for a while.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday import prices dipped 0.1% last month. Data for September was revised down to show import prices gaining 0.2% instead of rising 0.3% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices, which exclude tariffs, advancing 0.2% in October.

In the 12 months through October, import prices fell 1.0% after declining 1.4% in September.

Petroleum prices fell 1.0% last month. Excluding petroleum, import prices were unchanged following a 0.6% advance in September. The weakness in import prices came on the heels of data last week showing a steady increase in producer prices in October and slowing consumer inflation.

Imported food prices edged up 0.1% last month. The cost of goods imported from China were unchanged for the second consecutive month. Last month, prices for imported capital goods were unchanged. The cost of imported motor vehicles fell 0.1%. Prices for consumer goods excluding autos dropped 0.2%.

The report also showed export prices increased 0.2% in October, lifted by higher agricultural export prices. Prices for nonagricultural exports were unchanged. Export prices rose 0.6% in September. They dropped 1.6% on a year-on-year basis in October after decreasing 1.8% in September.