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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Led Lower by Petroleum
by Tom Moeller  January 14, 2015

Import prices declined 2.5% (-5.5% y/y) during December following a 1.8% November drop, earlier reported as -1.5%. It was the largest of six straight months of decline and matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. A 16.6% fall (-30.1% y/y) in petroleum prices led the decline in import costs. Showing stability were nonoil prices as they ticked 0.1% higher (0.0% y/y), but that followed monthly declines extending back to April. For all of last year, import prices repeated a 1.1% decline as oil prices fell 5.5% and nonpetroleum costs edged 0.1% higher.

Last month's 0.1% rise in nonoil import prices reflected a 0.9% increase (3.8% y/y) in prices for foods, feeds & beverages. Pricing was weak elsewhere. Nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.2% (+0.6% y/y) and have been down or unchanged for six straight months. Capital goods prices moved 0.1% lower (-0.5% y/y) and automotive costs were unchanged (-0.8% y/y). Industrial materials prices fell 8.5% (-17.3% y/y) but excluding petroleum they rose 0.6% (-0.7% y/y).

Export prices fell 1.2% (-3.2% y/y), the fifth consecutive monthly decline, and for all of last year they moved 0.5% lower. A 3.3% decline (-9.0% y/y) in industrial supplies & materials prices paced the price weakness. Petroleum prices fell 13.1% (-28.8% y/y) and foods, feeds & beverage prices also were off by 0.9% (-4.2% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.2% (-0.6% y/y), the fourth straight monthly fall. Auto prices were unchanged (0.5% y/y) for a second straight month while capital goods prices also were unchanged (0.7% y/y) as they have been for four straight months.

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 from the Action Economics Forecast Survey is in the AS1REPNA database.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Imports - All Commodities -2.5 -1.8 -1.4 -5.5 -1.1 -1.1 0.3
  Petroleum -16.6 -9.1 -7.1 -30.1 -5.5 -2.6 -0.3
  Nonpetroleum 0.1 -0.3 -0.2 0.0 0.1 -0.6 0.3
Exports - All Commodities -1.2 -0.8 -0.9 -3.2 -0.5 -0.4 0.4
  Agricultural -0.7 0.4 -2.2 -4.9 -2.6 1.6 2.4
  Nonagricultural -1.2 -1.0 -0.7 -2.9 -0.3 -0.7 0.1
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