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Economy in Brief

U.S. Total Import Prices Surged, Ex. Oil Jumped
by Tom Moeller April 11, 2008

Overall import prices surged 2.8% last month. Except for a 3.2% jump last November, the gain was the largest since 1990 and by far outpaced Consensus expectations for a 0.2% uptick.

Petroleum prices rose 9.1% as crude oil prices surged. Imported crude petroleum prices already are up another 4% this month versus March.

Less petroleum, import prices jumped 1.1%. That was the largest m/m increase on record, pushed higher by the lower foreign exchange value of the dollar.

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 reduced 47% against a broader basket of currencies.

Prices for industrial supplies & materials excluding petroleum surged again, last month by 3.6% (14.7% y/y) after the 2.7% February jump. Finished metal prices have been strong (16.1% y/y) and iron & steel mill product prices were up 19.5% y/y. The detailed import price series can be found in the Haver USINT database.

Capital goods import prices rose 1.0% y/y but less the lower prices of computers capital goods prices rose 3.3%, the fastest rate of gain since 1995. Prices of computers, peripherals and accessories fell 4.5% y/y.

Finally, prices for nonauto consumer goods imports rose 2.7% y/y during March, the quickest gain since 1992. Price gains were accelerated across the board.

Total export prices also have been quite strong led by a 33.4% y/y surge in agricultural prices. Nonagricultural export prices also were strong and rose 5.6% y/y, the quickest since 1995.

Import/Export Prices (NSA) March February Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Import - All Commodities 2.8% 0.2% 14.8% 4.2% 4.9% 7.5%
  Petroleum 9.1% -1.9% 60.0% 11.6% 20.6% 37.6%
  Non-petroleum 1.1% 0.7% 5.4% 2.7% 1.7% 2.7%
Export- All Commodities 1.5% 1.1% 7.9% 4.9% 3.6% 3.2%
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