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updated: 4/11/2013 8:56 AM

Cheaper oil pushes down U.S. import prices 0.5 pct.

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Prices paid by U.S. importers fell last month after two straight increases, driven down by cheaper oil. Falling import prices helps keep inflation in check.

The Labor Department says import prices dropped 0.5 percent in March after a 0.6 percent gain the previous month. The cost of fuel imports declined 1.9 percent. Excluding fuel, import costs fell 0.2 percent.

Import prices have fallen 2.7 percent in the 12 months ending in March. They haven't recorded a year-over-year increase since last April.

Export prices also declined in March from February. They fell 0.4 percent, pushed down by cheaper agricultural goods. In the past year, export prices have increased 0.3 percent, pushed up by an 8.8 percent increase in farm goods prices.

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