The numbers: The cost of imported goods such as oil and food rose a sharp 2.6% in March, helping to fuel the worst episode of high U.S. inflation since the early 1980s.
The increase was the largest since 2011. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 2.2% advance.
A surge in oil prices after the Russian invasion of Ukraine explained a large part of the increase last month. Even if fuel is set aside, however, import prices rose a still-strong 1.2% in the month.
The cost of imported goods has leaped 12.5% in the past year, the highest since 2011.
Import prices minus fuel has risen 7.5% in the same span.
Key details: The cost of oil leaped 16.1% in March and accounted for about half of the increase in import prices.
Oil rose sharply in 2021 and jumped to a 13-year high in early March shortly after the Ukraine conflict erupted.
A barrel of oil now fetches over $100, double the amount compared to a year earlier. Prices have leveled off in April, however.
Prices also rose for imported food, drinks, consumer goods and industrial supplies.
Export prices rose 4.5% in March, and they are up 18.8% in the past year.
The war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China could even exacerbate the problem, at least temporarily.
The Federal Reserve, for its part, plans a series of increases in interest rates to try to tame inflation, but higher rates take awhile to have an effect.