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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Jump With Petroleum Prices
by Tom Moeller  April 11, 2012

U.S. import prices increased 1.3% (3.4% y/y) last month after a revised 0.1% dip during February, initially pegged as +0.4%. A 0.8% March rise had been expected. Year-to-year, higher oil prices and the lower value of the dollar have raised prices for imported products by 3.4%, although that rate of increase recently has fallen sharply. Petroleum prices jumped 4.3% last month after a downwardly revised 0.4% gain. Brent crude oil rose to an average $125.13 per barrel from February's $117.92 but yesterday fell to $120.82. Non-oil import prices rose 0.3% (1.4% y/y) following a 0.1% dip during February. 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 rose 1.8% last month (-0.3% y/y) while prices for non-oil industrial supplies increased 0.9% (-0.6% y/y). Prices for non-auto consumer goods were unchanged for the second month (2.7% y/y). Furniture prices rose 0.5% (5.1% y/y) and home entertainment equipment prices slipped 0.3% (-5.2% y/y). Imported auto prices rose 0.3% (3.0% y/y) and imported capital goods prices rose 0.2% (1.1% y/y). Computer & peripherals prices increased 0.4% (-2.1% y/y) while excluding computers, capital goods prices rose 0.3% (2.5% y/y).

U.S. export prices gained 0.8% (0.9% y/y) as nonagricultural prices rose 0.5% (1.7% y/y) but agricultural goods prices jumped 2.7% (-5.5% y/y). Prices of industrial supplies rose 1.2% (-0.2% y/y). Capital goods prices gained 0.2% (1.3% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods prices rose 0.3% (2.9% y/y). Prices for exported autos & parts rose 0.2% (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, %) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Imports - All Commodities 1.3 -0.1 0.0 3.4 10.9 6.9 -11.5
  Petroleum 4.3 0.4 0.0 9.6 36.4 28.4 -35.9
  Nonpetroleum 0.3 -0.1 -0.1 1.4 4.5 2.8 -4.1
Exports - All Commodities 0.8 0.4 0.2 0.9 8.1 4.9 -4.6
  Agricultural 2.7 -0.6 1.0 -5.5 22.3 7.9 -12.8
  Nonagricultural 0.5 0.5 0.0 1.7 6.6 4.6 -3.7
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