U.S. import prices rose at a slower pace in April as petroleum and food cost increases moderated, supporting views the recent jump in commodity prices was likely to be transitory.

Overall import prices increased 2.2 percent for a seventh straight month of gains, the Labor Department said on Tuesday, slowing from a 2.6 percent increase in March.

The increase was, however, above economists' expectations for a 1.8 percent rise.

The report came on the heels of a collapse in commodity prices last week, which pulled down crude oil prices from their lofty levels. U.S. crude oil has fallen to about $102 a barrel from more than $114 at the start of May.

If these falls were to be maintained, the rates at which import prices are increasing would slow and that would mean less upward pressure on CPI, said Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

Excluding volatile petroleum, import prices were up 0.6 percent after rising 0.4 percent the prior month. In the 12 months to April, import prices rose 11.1 percent overall and 4.3 percent excluding petroleum.

Stripping out both petroleum and food, import prices rose 0.5 percent in April after a 0.3 percent rise in March.

Federal Reserve officials generally view the recent surge in food and energy prices as unlikely to translate into broader inflation. The monthly rise in import prices reflected a 7.2 percent increase in imported petroleum prices, which followed a 9.8 percent advance in March.

Imported food prices increased 1.8 percent, slowing sharply from a 4.2 percent rise in March.

The Labor Department report showed export prices rose 1.1 percent after increasing 1.5 percent in March. Analysts had expected export prices to gain 0.9 percent.

In the 12 months to April, export prices rose 9.6 percent. Export prices were lifted by gains in foods and industrial supplies and materials.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Andrea Ricci)