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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import and Export Prices Extend Broad Declines
by Carol Stone  September 10, 2015

Both import and export prices declined markedly in August. Yes, lower petroleum prices were a main feature, but other categories also had more than marginal decreases.

Import prices fell 1.8% in August (-11.4% y/y) after July's 0.9% decrease, which was unrevised. The August result was mildly weaker than the Action Economics Forecast Survey, which anticipated a 1.4% decline.

Prices of petroleum imports dropped 14.2% (-49.6% y/y) following their 5.9% fall in July. Nonpetroleum import prices were off 0.4% (-3.2% y/y), extending their downtrend to a 17th month. Industrial materials prices excluding petroleum declined 1.6% (-10.3% y/y), and they have also been down regularly over that near year-and-a-half span. Most other end-use categories also had decreases in August. Capital goods fell 0.2% in the month (-2.3% y/y), autos and parts were off 0.2% (-1.6% y/y) and other consumer goods edged down 0.1% (-1.2% y/y). Only food, feed and beverages imports rose in price, by 0.3%, but they were still off 2.1% y/y.

Export prices fell 1.4% in August, making them down 7.0% y/y. This was considerably weaker than the Action Economics Survey, which looked for a 0.4% decrease. The declines were widespread. Agricultural prices dropped 2.6% (-13.9% y/y) and nonagricultural prices were down 1.3% (-6.2% y/y). Overall industrial materials & supplies prices fell 3.5% (-16.1% y/y), reflecting a 10.1% decline (-37.4% y/y) in petroleum prices. Among other end-use categories, only autos and parts did not fall, but they only held flat in the month (-0.3% y/y). Foods, feeds & beverage prices, by contrast, more than reversed a July improvement, falling 3.0% in August (-14.4% y/y). Capital goods export prices were again off by 0.1% (+0.1% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices fell 0.4% (-2.9% y/y).

The import and export price series can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures, including the industrial materials excluding petroleum imports and the petroleum export items mentioned above, are available in the USINT database. The expectations figure from the Action Economics Forecast Survey is in the AS1REPNA database.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Imports - All Commodities -1.8 -0.9 0.1 -11.4 -1.1 -1.1 0.3
  Petroleum -14.2 -5.9 1.7 -49.6 -5.6 -2.6 -0.3
  Nonpetroleum -0.4 -0.4 -0.1 -3.2 0.1 -0.6 0.3
Exports - All Commodities -1.4 -0.4 -0.2 -7.0 -0.5 -0.4 0.4
  Agricultural -2.6 1.1 -1.6 -13.9 -2.7 1.6 2.4
  Nonagricultural -1.3 -0.5 -0.1 -6.2 -0.3 -0.7 0.1
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