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US import prices post largest drop in 2-1/2 years

[WASHINGTON] US import prices recorded their biggest decline in nearly 2-1/2 years in November as the cost of petroleum products tumbled, suppressing imported inflation pressures.

The Labour Department said on Thursday import prices dropped 1.5 per cent last month, the largest decline since June 2012, after falling 1.2 per cent in September. November marked the fifth straight month of declines in import prices.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices dropping 1.8 per cent last month. In the 12 months through November, prices fell 2.3 per cent.

Brent crude oil prices have tumbled to near five-year lows as faltering global growth undercuts demand. An increase in shale production in the United States has reduced the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

A strong dollar is also helping to keep imported inflation subdued.

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Imported petroleum prices fell 6.9 per cent in November, the biggest drop since June 2012, after declining 6.4 per cent the prior month. Imported food prices fell 0.4 per cent.

Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.3 per cent last month. They had slipped 0.2 per cent in October.

The Labour Department report also showed export prices fell 1.0 per cent in November after dropping 0.9 per cent in October. In the 12 months through November, export prices fell 1.9 per cent.


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