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Economy in Brief

Import Prices Surged
by Tom Moeller May 13, 2005

Import prices surged 0.8% last month following an upwardly revised 2.0% spike in March. Consensus expectations had been for a moderate 0.3% increase.

Petroleum prices jumped another 3.1% m/m and the March gain was revised up. While crude oil moderated and rose just 1.0%, a 9.9% jump in "other" petroleum product prices and a 12.4% gain gas prices lifted the fuel total. So far in May the price of Brent Crude oil has traded roughly 5% below the April average of $52.22 per barrel and yesterday touched $46.63.

Import prices other than petroleum rose 0.4% last month and again mostly reflected strength in prices of foods & beverages (0.4% m/m, 8.5% y/y) and in prices for industrial supplies & materials less petroleum (2.1% m/m, 11.5% y/y).

During the last ten years there has been a 66% (negative) correlation between the nominal trade-weighted exchange value of the US dollar vs. major currencies and the y/y change in non oil import prices. The correlation is a lower 47% against a broader basket of currencies and a lower 57% against the real value of the dollar.

Prices for nonauto consumer goods fell 0.1% (+1.1% y/y) for the second down month and capital goods prices fell 0.1% (-0.5% y/y) for the third down month. Imported computer prices fell 1.1% (-7.1% y/y) although excluding computers capital goods prices rose a firm 0.3% (2.7% y/y).

Export prices again rose 0.6% on the strength of a 1.9% (14.0% y/y) surge in industrial materials.

Import/Export Prices (NSA) April March Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Import - All Commodities 0.8% 2.0% 8.1% 5.6% 2.9% -2.5%
  Petroleum 3.1% 12.3% 43.1% 30.5% 21.0% 3.0%
  Non-petroleum 0.4% 0.3% 3.0% 2.6% 1.1% -2.4%
Export - All Commodities 0.6% 0.6% 3.1% 3.9% 1.6% -1.0%
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