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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Strengthen Further
by Tom Moeller  March 15, 2011

U.S. import prices continue to exhibit broad-based strength. During February, prices jumped another 1.4% after a revised 1.3% January  increase, initially reported as 1.5%. The gain was much stronger than Consensus expectations for a 0.9% rise. The gain was paced by a 3.7% increase in petroleum while nonpetroleum prices rose by an easier 0.6%.

Earlier strength in petroleum prices continued last month. Brent crude oil prices rose to $101.46 per barrel compared to $97.15 in January. For February, non-oil import prices rose 0.6% and 3.5% 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.)

Earlier strength in imported food & beverage prices eased somewhat with a 0.8% increase, up 15.8% y/y. Prices for nonoil industrial supplies rose 2.1% (11.2% y/y) paced by a 19.3% y/y increase in unfinished metals prices. Prices for non-auto consumer goods rose 0.2% (0.3% y/y). Home entertainment equipment prices declined 10.1% y/y but furniture prices inched up 0.8%. Apparel prices rose 4.0% y/y. Imported auto prices rose 1.4% during the last twelve months while imported capital goods prices ticked 0.5% higher. Computer & peripherals prices fell 3.6% y/y but excluding computers, capital goods prices rose 2.2%.

Total export prices jumped another 1.2% last month and rose a strong 8.6% y/y. The gain reflected a 4.4% increase in agricultural export prices, up by one-third over the last year. Non-agricultural goods prices rose a steady 0.9% last month and 6.2% y/y. Strength has been notable for industrial supplies (19.3% y/y) and non-auto consumer goods (3.1% 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, %) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Imports - All Commodities 1.4 1.3 1.4 6.9 6.9 -11.5 11.5
  Petroleum 3.7 3.1 5.5 20.6 28.4 -35.9 37.7
  Nonpetroleum 0.6 0.8 0.4 3.5 2.8 -4.1 5.3
Exports - All Commodities 1.2 1.3 0.7 8.6 4.9 -4.6 6.0
  Agricultural 4.4 3.2 1.9 33.5 7.8 -12.8 21.6
  Nonagricultural 0.9 1.0 0.6 6.2 4.6 -3.7 4.5
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