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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Slow as Petroleum Falls, Other Prices Flat
by Carol Stone, CBE  June 15, 2017

Import prices fell 0.3% in May (2.1% y/y) following April's 0.2% increase, which was revised from 0.5%. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated no change. These figures are not seasonally adjusted, and they can potentially be revised in each of the following 3 months.

Petroleum import prices declined 3.9% (16.2% y/y) in May following a 0.4% decline (revised from a 1.6% increase reported last month). Nonpetroleum import prices were unchanged after April's 0.3% increase, revised from 0.4%; their y/y increase was +1.0%. Among end-use categories, industrial supplies & materials prices excluding petroleum also decreased, down 0.5% (+5.8% y/y), breaking a strong six-month advance. Categories with increases included foods, feeds and beverages, which rose 1.2% (4.1% y/y) and motor vehicle & parts, up by 0.1% (0.1% y/y). Capital goods prices were flat overall (-0.4% y/y) and excluding computers, they eased 0.1% (-0.5% y/y). Consumer goods prices excluding autos were also unchanged in the month, and they were down 0.2% y/y.

Export prices fell 0.7% (+1.4% y/y) in May; their April 0.2% increase was unrevised. The May decline contrasted with the Action Economics Survey expectation of a 0.1% rise. Both agricultural commodity prices and nonagricultural prices were weak in May. Agricultural commodities fell 1.6%, making the y/y rise a mere 0.1%; April's monthly move was +0.1%. Nonagricultural exports were down 0.6% after April's 0.3% rise; their y/y move was 1.5%.

Among the end-use categories, overall foods, feeds & beverage export prices dropped 2.0% (-0.1% y/y). Industrial supplies & materials fell 1.8% (+4.8% y/y), reflecting the downturn in petroleum prices by 6.6% (but up 13.1% y/y). Nonagricultural supplies & materials prices excluding fuels & building materials declined 0.8% (+0.9% y/y), their second consecutive decline after two positive months. Other export categories were little changed in May: motor vehicles and parts prices were flat (+0.2% y/y), capital goods prices rose just 0.1% (0.6% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods also edged up 0.1% (-1.9% 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 from the Action Economics Forecast Survey is in the AS1REPNA database.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) May Apr Mar May Y/Y 2016 2015 2014
Imports - All Commodities -0.3 0.2 -0.2 2.1 -3.3 -10.2 -1.1
  Petroleum -3.9 -0.4 -2.6 16.2 -19.7 -46.0 -5.6
  Nonpetroleum 0.0 0.3 0.1 1.0 -1.5 -2.8 0.1
Exports - All Commodities -0.7 0.2 0.2 1.4 -3.2 -6.3 -0.5
  Agricultural -1.6 0.1 1.1 0.1 -5.4 -13.3 -2.7
  Nonagricultural -0.6 0.3 0.1 1.5 -3.0 -5.5 -0.3
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