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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Nudge Higher
by Tom Moeller  October 14, 2011

Overall U.S. import prices rose 0.3% during September after a 0.2% August decline, revised from -0.4%. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.3% September drop. Year-to-year, the lower value of the U.S. dollar as well as higher oil prices have raised prices for imported products. The 13.4% increase since last September was nearly the strongest since mid-2008.

Petroleum prices rose 0.3% as Brent crude oil rose m/m to an average $112.89 per barrel (44.5% y/y), still down versus the high of $122.68 during April. Non-oil import prices rose 0.2% and by 5.5% 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.)

Imported food & beverage prices rose 0.5% last month (+14.4% y/y) while prices for non-oil industrial supplies rose 0.2% (15.8% y/y). Prices for non-auto consumer goods again rose 0.3% (2.4% y/y) and apparel prices ticked up just 0.1% (9.1% y/y). Firming were furniture prices, up 0.4% (5.9% y/y), but home entertainment equipment prices again fell 0.3% (-6.8% y/y). Imported auto prices rose 0.1% (+3.7% y/y) while imported capital goods prices also ticked up 0.1% (1.3% y/y). Computer & peripherals prices were unchanged (-5.2% y/y). Excluding computers, capital goods prices rose 0.2% and by a strengthened 4.0% y/y. They increased just 0.5% last year and by 0.7% in 2009.

U.S. export prices rose 0.4% as agricultural prices jumped 1.6%. They were up by roughly one-quarter versus last year. That gain was accompanied by a 0.3% increase in non-agricultural goods (8.0% y/y). Prices of industrial supplies increased 0.7% and were up 18.9% y/y. Capital goods prices slipped 0.1% (1.0% y/y). To the upside, nonauto consumer goods prices rose 5.1% y/y compared to a 2.1% rise last year and a 0.3% gain during all of 2009.

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 is in the AS1REPNA database.

Did Speculation Drive Oil Prices? Futures Market Points To Fundamentals from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is available here

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Imports - All Commodities 0.3 -0.2 0.1 13.4 6.9 -11.5 11.5
  Petroleum 0.3 -1.6 0.3 45.9 28.4 -35.9 37.7
  Nonpetroleum 0.2 0.3 0.1 5.5 2.8 -4.1 5.3
Exports - All Commodities 0.4 0.5 -0.3 9.5 4.9 -4.6 6.0
  Agricultural 1.6 2.1 -4.0 22.9 7.9 -12.8 21.6
  Nonagricultural 0.3 0.3 0.2 8.0 4.6 -3.7 4.5
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