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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Slip With Lower Oil Prices
by Tom Moeller  January 13, 2012

U.S. import prices matched expectations and slipped 0.1% last month. That followed a revised 0.8% November gain, initially reported as 0.7%. Year-to-year, higher oil prices and the lower value of the dollar raised prices for imported products by 8.5% y/y. Petroleum prices slipped 0.4% last month but rose one-third versus last year as Brent crude oil slipped to an average $109.60 per barrel. Prices so far this month recovered the December decline but remain down from April high of $112.68. Non-oil import prices fell 0.2% (+3.7% y/y) during December, down for the second consecutive month. The y/y change in non-oil import prices during the last ten years has an 81% inverse correlation with the nominal trade-weighted exchange value of the US dollar vs. major currencies.

Imported food & beverage prices slipped 0.4% last month (+6.3% y/y) while prices for non-oil industrial supplies fell 0.5% (+5.3% y/y). Prices for non-auto consumer goods ticked up 0.2% (3.2% y/y) reflecting no change (3.6% y/y) in household goods. Furniture prices slipped 0.2% (+6.1% y/y) and home entertainment equipment prices rose 0.8% (-6.0% y/y), up m/m for the first monthly gain since 2009. The increase reflected a higher TV costs but they're still off 5.9% y/y. Imported auto prices inched up 0.1% (3.7% y/y) and imported capital goods prices gained 0.2% (0.9% y/y). Computer & peripherals prices rose 0.9% (-4.3% y/y) while excluding computers, capital goods prices were unchanged (3.2% y/y).

U.S. export prices fell 0.5% as agricultural prices dropped 2.6 accompanied by a 0.2% slip in non-agricultural goods (+4.0% y/y). Prices of industrial supplies fell 0.8% but were up 6.9% y/y. Capital goods prices were unchanged (0.7% y/y) for the third consecutive month and nonauto consumer goods prices inched up 0.1% (3.6% y/y). Prices for exported autos & parts slipped 0.1% (+2.6% y/y).

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.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Imports - All Commodities -0.1 0.8 -0.4 8.5 10.9 6.9 -11.5
  Petroleum -0.4 3.8 -0.3 27.4 36.5 28.4 -35.9
  Nonpetroleum 0.0 -0.2 -0.4 3.3 4.4 2.8 -4.1
Exports - All Commodities -0.5 0.1 -2.0 3.6 8.1 4.9 -4.6
  Agricultural -2.6 1.7 -6.5 0.8 22.3 7.9 -12.8
  Nonagricultural -0.2 -0.2 -1.4 4.0 6.6 4.6 -3.7
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