WASHINGTON – U.S. import prices climbed 2.2 percent in April, the Labor Department said Tuesday, marking the first time prices have climbed over 2 percent in consecutive months since June 2008.

The April advance follows the 2.7 percent jump in March and was stronger than the 1.6 percent gain that economists polled by MarketWatch had anticipated. Prices of imports are up 11.1 percent compared to April 2010.

Imported fuel, accounting for 80 percent of the April 2011 gain, shot up 6.7 percent on the month.

But excluding fuel, import prices also are up, rising 0.6 percent on the month and 4.3 percent over 12 months.

Industrial supplies and materials accounted for most of that gain, the Labor Department said.

“We see the import price data as a clear and present danger on the inflation front — although it is a perspective that has not been shared by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke,” said analysts at RDQ Economics. Bernanke has often said he expects the commodity price impact on inflation to be “transitory.”

Meanwhile, export prices rose 1.1 percent in April, the agency added.

On Wall Street on Tuesday, the news that Microsoft Inc. said it would buy Internet telephone service Skype for $8.5 billion in cash drove stocks higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.68 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 12,760.36. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10.87 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,357.16. The Nasdaq composite index gained 28.64 points, or 1 percent, to 2,871.89.

Also Tuesday, dairy producer Dean Foods Co. and Medifast Inc. reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations. Dean had a stronger start to the year than it expected and raised its forecast for full-year earnings. The company also said it would raise prices to help combat falling milk sales. Dean jumped 11 percent.

The import price index is the first of three big inflation indicators due this week, with producer prices set for release Thursday and consumer prices set for release Friday.

Also released Tuesday was the National Federation of Independent Business’s small-business confidence survey, which slipped 0.7 points to 91.2 in April, the lowest reading since September.

“This report is not good news since small businesses are feeling the brunt of this sluggish economic recovery,” said Chris Christopher, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight.

“Small businesses are exposed to consumer spending and construction; construction figures have been disappointing with the housing market puttering around at the bottom and the consumer mood is at depressed levels.”