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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Again Firm Due To Oil
by Tom Moeller  March 14, 2012

U.S. import prices rose 0.4% (5.5% y/y) last month after a revised no change during January, initially pegged as 0.3%. A 0.6% February rise had been expected. Year-to-year, higher oil prices and the lower value of the dollar raised prices for imported products by 5.5%, although that rate of increase has diminished recently. Petroleum prices rose 1.8% last month after a downwardly revised 0.3% gain. Brent crude oil rose to an average $117.92 per barrel from January's $110.49 and so far this month have risen further to average $125.32. Non-oil import prices slipped 0.2% following no-change during January. The y/y change in non-oil import prices during the last twenty years has a 59% inverse correlation with the nominal trade-weighted exchange value of the US dollar vs. major currencies.

Imported food & beverage prices fell 3.0% last month (+2.0% y/y) while prices for non-oil industrial supplies increased 0.4% (-0.5% y/y). Prices for non-auto consumer goods were unchanged (+2.3% y/y). Furniture prices slipped 0.1% (+5.1% y/y) and home entertainment equipment prices fell 0.3% (-5.2% y/y). Imported auto prices were unchanged (3.6% y/y) and imported capital goods prices slipped 0.1% (+1.1% y/y). Computer & peripherals prices were unchanged (-2.5% y/y) while excluding computers, capital goods prices also were stable (2.7% y/y).

U.S. export prices increased 0.4% (1.5% y/y) as nonagricultural prices rose 0.5% (2.6% y/y) but agricultural goods prices fell 0.9% (-6.2% y/y). Prices of industrial supplies rose 1.1% (1.9% y/y). Capital goods prices gained 0.2% (1.1% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods prices rose 0.3% (3.7% y/y). Prices for exported autos & parts rose 0.2% (2.8% 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, %) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Imports - All Commodities 0.4 0.0 0.0 5.5 10.9 6.9 -11.5
  Petroleum 1.8 0.3 -0.4 18.4 36.4 28.4 -35.9
  Nonpetroleum -0.2 0.0 0.1 1.6 4.5 2.8 -4.1
Exports - All Commodities 0.4 0.2 -0.5 1.5 8.1 4.9 -4.6
  Agricultural -0.9 1.1 -2.3 -6.2 22.3 7.9 -12.8
  Nonagricultural 0.5 0.0 -0.2 2.6 6.6 4.6 -3.7
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