WASHINGTON — U.S. import prices fell by 0.5% in March following solid fuel-led increases in the previous two months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.

Fuel prices fell by 1.9% in March after rising 1.8% in January and 2.9% in February. Within the fuel price decrease, petroleum import prices fell 1.9% and natural gas prices fell 1.5%.

Import prices were still down 0.2% when the fuels category was excluded, and was still down 0.2% when a 1.3% rise in the food category was also removed. These declines followed modest gains in the previous two months.

The remaining import categories were generally lower, with declines in non-fuel import prices, capital goods prices, automotive prices, and consumer goods prices all declining in the month.

Total import prices were down 2.7% over the last 12 months, while non-fuel import prices were fell 0.5% over that period.

Import prices from major trading partners were down across-the-board as well, with prices from China, Canada, and Japan each down 0.2%, and prices from the EU down a large 0.7%. These followed increases in the previous month.

Interestingly, prices from France were up 0.9% in March, the largest monthly gain since January 2009. Prices from the UK, however, declined 3.2%, the largest decline since November 2008.

Total export prices fell 0.4% in March, while agricultural export prices fell 1.8% and export prices excluding agriculture were down 0.2%.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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