Import prices climb 0.2% in April, but show barely any whiff of inflation

The numbers: The cost of goods imported into the U.S. rose mildly in April, mostly because of the higher cost of oil. Energy aside there was little hint of rising inflation.

The import price index climbed 0.2% last month, the government said Tuesday. That was well below Wall Street forecasts calling for an increase of as much as 1%.

If fuel is excluded, import prices actually fell 0.1% — the fourth straight decline.

Overall import prices have fallen 0.2% in the past 12 months. A year earlier they were running at a 3.5% annual clip.

What happened: The cost of fuel imports increased 2.5% last month, but that marked a big dropoff from 6.1% in March and 10.2% in February.

The cost of most other goods were generally flat to lower except for food, beverages and animal feeds.

The price of U.S. exports rose 0.2%.

Big picture: Inflation in the U.S. tapered off toward the end of last year and is hovering just below a 2% annual pace. Rising oil prices have pushed inflation a bit higher in the past few months, but not enough to worry the Federal Reserve.

A wild card is the cost of imports. Stiffer U.S. tariffs on China could lead to higher prices for many consumer goods such as TVs, cell phones and appliances as well as critical business supplies.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -2.38% and S&P 500 SPX, -2.41% were set to open higher in Tuesday trades following a big decline on Monday after China retaliated with tariffs on U.S. exports. The two countries are still engaged in a tense standoff over trade rules after talks faltered last week.

The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.04% was flat at 2.42%.

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