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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Rebound; Export Prices Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  May 11, 2018

Import prices increased 0.3% during April (3.3% y/y) after declining 0.2% in March, revised from no change. A 0.5% rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

A 1.6% rebound (20.6% y/y) in petroleum import costs led prices higher last month after a 2.2% March drop. Nonpetroleum import prices ticked 0.1% higher (1.7% y/y) following no change. Amongst end-use categories, industrial supplies and materials prices excluding petroleum firmed 0.6% (7.1% y/y) for the second straight month. Among other detail categories, prices of foods, feeds and beverages declined 0.4% (+1.6% y/y) after a 1.1% drop. Capital goods prices held steady (1.1% y/y) after a 0.1% rise. Prices of computers, peripherals & semiconductors similarly were unchanged (1.4% y/y) after a 0.2% rise. Capital goods prices excluding computers, semiconductors & peripherals held steady (1.0% y/y) for a second straight month. Prices of motor vehicles and parts inched 0.1% higher (0.3% y/y) following a 0.1% decline. Prices of consumer goods excluding automobiles improved 0.1% (0.3% y/y) after a 0.1% easing.

Export prices strengthened 0.6% (3.8% y/y) following an unrevised 0.3% gain. A 0.3% April rise had been expected.

Agricultural export prices declined 1.2% in April (+1.4% y/y) following a 3.2% March rise. Nonagricultural export prices increased 0.7% (4.0% y/y) following no change. Amongst the end-use categories, prices of computers, peripherals & semiconductors rose 0.7% (2.2% y/y) after a 0.4% rise. Capital goods prices excluding computers, peripherals & semiconductors increased 0.4% (1.8% y/y) after holding steady. Prices of industrial supplies and materials jumped 1.5% (8.7% y/y) after a 0.1% dip, as petroleum prices rebounded 4.5% (19.1% y/y) after two months of decline. Nonagricultural supplies and materials prices excluding fuels and building materials strengthened 0.4% (6.1% y/y) after three months of even stronger increase. Non-auto consumer goods prices held steady (1.6% y/y) after a 0.1% gain. Prices of motor vehicles and parts inched 0.1% higher (0.7% y/y) following no change. Capital goods prices jumped 0.4% (2.0% y/y), the strongest gain in six months. Auto export prices ticked 0.1% higher (0.7% y/y) following no change. To the downside, overall foods, feeds and beverage prices were off 1.3% (+0.9% y/y) following a 3.3% rise.

The import and export price series can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are available in the USINT database. The expectations figure from the Action Economics Forecast Survey is in the AS1REPNA database.

U.S. Monetary Policy: A Case for Caution from James Bullard, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is available here.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Apr Mar Feb Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Imports - All Commodities 0.3 -0.2 0.2 3.3 2.9 -3.3 -10.2
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products 1.6 -2.2 -1.1 20.6 26.6 -19.7 -46.0
  Nonpetroleum 0.1 0.0 0.4 1.7 1.1 -1.5 -2.8
Exports - All Commodities 0.6 0.3 0.2 3.8 2.4 -3.2 -6.3
  Agricultural -1.2 3.2 0.6 1.4 1.5 -5.4 -13.3
  Nonagricultural 0.7 0.0 0.2 4.0 2.5 -3.0 -5.5
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