The Labor Department said on Friday import prices increased 0.4 % last month after an upwardly revised 0.5 % rise in December. In the 12 months through January, import prices jumped 3.7 %, the largest gain since February 2012, after advancing 2.0 % in December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices gaining 0.2 % last month after a previously reported 0.4 % increase in December.
Import prices are rising as firming global demand lifts prices for oil and other commodities, but the spillover to a broader increase in inflation is being limited by dollar strength.
The dollar gained 4.4 % against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners in 2016, with most of the appreciation occurring in last months of the year.
This suggests that the greenback will continue to dampen imported inflation in the near-term even though the dollar has weakened 2.9 % on a trade-weighted basis this year.
Prices for imported fuels increased 5.8 % last month after rising 6.6 % in December. Import prices excluding fuels fell 0.2 % after slipping 0.1 % the prior month. The cost of imported food dropped 1.3 % after declining 1.5 % in December.
Prices for imported capital goods dipped 0.1 % after being unchanged in December. The cost of imported automobiles dropped 0.5 %, the biggest decline since January 2015.
Imported consumer goods prices excluding automobiles fell 0.1 % last month after sliding 0.2 % in December.
The report also showed export prices edged up 0.1 % in January after increasing 0.4 % in December.
Export prices were up 2.3 % from a year ago. That was the biggest increase since January 2012 and followed a 1.3 % advance in December.
Prices for agricultural exports dipped 0.1 % last month as falling prices for soybeans offset higher prices for corn. Agricultural export prices fell 0.2 % in December.