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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Retreat With Broad-based Declines
by Tom Moeller  April 11, 2013

Prices in the U.S. foreign trade sector weakened last month and reversed earlier strength. Import prices fell 0.5% (-2.7% y/y) during March after the 0.6% February rise, earlier reported as 1.1%. The Action Economics survey looked for a 0.1% slip in prices. Easing petroleum prices led last month's overall price decline with a 1.9% drop (-10.4% y/y).

Nonpetroleum import prices slipped 0.1% (-0.2% y/y) and have been roughly unchanged for five months. Nonoil industrial supplies & material costs fell 0.4% (-0.2% y/y) while motor vehicle & parts prices declined 0.3% (+0.7% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices fell 0.2% (0.0% y/y). Capital goods prices outside of the high-tech area slipped 0.1% (-0.1% y/y) but computers, peripheral & semiconductor costs were 0.2% higher (-1.1% y/y). Sharply higher were prices for foods, feeds & beverages. They jumped 1.3% (-0.7% y/y) for the second month of like strength.

U.S. export prices also were weak and fell 0.4% (+0.3% y/y) in March. That rise contrasted with expectations for a 0.1% uptick. Agricultural export prices reversed course with a 1.8% decline (+8.8% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices fell 0.2% (-0.9% y/y) and capital goods prices were unchanged (0.8% y/y). Motor vehicle & parts prices also were unchanged (0.9% 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 2012 2011 2010
Imports - All Commodities -0.5 0.6 0.5 -2.7 0.3 10.9 6.9
  Petroleum -1.9 3.0 2.2 -10.4 -0.3 36.5 28.4
  Nonpetroleum -0.1 0.0 0.1 -0.2 0.3 4.5 2.8
Exports - All Commodities -0.4 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.4 8.1 4.9
  Agricultural -1.8 2.1 -1.2 8.8 2.4 22.3 7.9
  Nonagricultural -0.2 0.6 0.5 -0.7 0.1 6.6 4.6
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