WASHINGTON—Prices for foreign goods shipped to the U.S. rose slightly in September, a sign that a modest rebound in oil markets is slowly lifting inflation.
The import-price index, measuring the cost of goods ranging from Brazilian coffee beans to Japanese cars, grew 0.1% from a month earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected prices to rise 0.2%.
Import prices have risen for six of the past seven months, helping to reverse a long slide. Import prices were still 1.1% lower in September compared with a year earlier. But that was the smallest decline in prices over any 12-month period since August 2014, suggesting inflation is firming.
“The underlying trend in imported deflation is improving and is consistent with a gradual waning of the drag from the stronger dollar and lower global commodity prices,” Barclays analyst Blerina Uruci said in a note to clients.
The latest shift is tied to oil. The price of imported petroleum rose 1.2% in September from a month earlier, though it was still down 2.4% from a year earlier. Outside of petroleum, import prices were flat last month and down 0.8% from the prior year.
Import prices have been kept in check in recent years by depressed oil prices, weak demand in overseas economies, and stimulus efforts by global central banks that have pushed up the value of the dollar against other currencies.
The price of a barrel of crude oil has recovered this year—it stood at roughly $50 Wednesday, up from about $40 at the year’s start—but remains far below its $90 level before the slide that began in summer 2014.