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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Firm
by Tom Moeller  February 15, 2011

U.S. import prices showed broad-based strength. During January, prices jumped another 1.5% after an upwardly revised 1.2% December increase, initially reported as 1.1%. The increase was stronger than Consensus expectations for a 0.8% rise. The gain was paced by a 3.4% increase in petroleum while nonpetroleum prices rose 1.1%, the most for any month since June 2008.

Earlier strength in petroleum prices continued this month. Yesterday, Brent crude oil prices jumped to $102.33 per barrel compared to $97.66 in January. For January, non-oil import prices rose 1.1% and 3.2% y/y. (The y/y change in non-oil import prices during the last ten years has had an 81% inverse correlation with the nominal trade-weighted exchange value of the US dollar vs. major currencies.)

In January, imported food & beverage prices again led the overall price gain with a 2.6% increase, up 14.8% y/y. Prices for nonoil industrial supplies rose 3.3% (10.5% y/y) paced by a 20.5% y/y increase in unfinished metals prices. Prices for non-auto consumer goods rose 0.3% but were unchanged during the last twelve months. Home entertainment equipment prices declined 10.2% y/y and furniture prices slipped 0.4%. Apparel prices rose 3.2% y/y. Imported auto prices rose 1.4% during the last twelve months while imported capital goods prices ticked 0.2% higher. Computer & peripherals prices fell 3.7% y/y but excluding computers, capital goods prices rose 1.8%.

Total export prices jumped another 1.2% last month and rose a strong 6.8 y/y. The gain reflected continued strength in agricultural exports, up 22.6% y/y. Non-agricultural goods prices rose a steady 0.9% last month and 5.3% y/y. Strength has been notable for industrial supplies (15.4% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods, up 2.7% y/y.

The import and export price series can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are available in the USINT database.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Imports - All Commodities 1.5 1.2 1.6 5.3 6.8 -11.5 11.5
  Petroleum 3.4 4.3 5.0 14.3 28.2 -35.9 37.7
  Nonpetroleum 1.1 0.4 0.8 3.2 2.8 -4.1 5.3
Exports - All Commodities 1.2 0.6 1.5 6.8 4.9 -4.6 6.0
  Agricultural 3.2 1.7 7.6 22.6 7.8 -12.8 21.6
  Nonagricultural 0.9 0.6 0.8 5.3 4.6 -3.7 4.5
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