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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Pulled Lower by Falling Oil Prices
by Tom Moeller  January 16, 2019

Import prices fell 1.0% during December following a 1.9% November decline, revised from -1.6%.  A 1.3% fall had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. During all of 2018, import prices fell 0.6% from December-to-December. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The decline in import prices last month was led by an 11.6% drop (-14.0% y/y) in petroleum import costs which followed a 16.0% fall. Nonpetroleum import prices increased 0.3% (1.0 y/y) during December after holding steady in the prior month. Industrial supplies & materials costs declined 3.9% (-3.1% y/y) with lower oil prices, as it followed a 6.2% fall. Industrial materials prices excluding petroleum strengthened 1.5% (5.1% y/y) after a 1.4% rise. Capital goods prices eased 0.1% (-0.2% y/y) for a second straight month. Motor vehicle & parts prices improved 0.1% (0.3% y/y) and reversed the November dip. Nonauto consumer goods prices rose 0.1% (0.6% y/y) following no change in the prior month.

Export prices declined 0.6% during December after a 0.8% decline, revised from -0.9%. A 0.7% decline in prices had been expected. During all of last year, export prices rose 1.1% from December-to-December.

Agricultural commodities prices increased 3.9% last month (2.5% y/y) after rising 1.7% in November. Nonagricultural product costs declined 1.1% (+1.0% y/y), about the same as in November. Foods, feeds & beverage prices surged 3.9% (2.8% y/y) following a 1.9% gain. The cost of industrial supplies & materials weakened 3.2% (+1.0% y/y) after falling 2.8%. Excluding fuels & building materials, these prices fell 0.9% (+1.9% y/y). Capital goods prices held steady (1.2% y/y) for the third month in the last four. Motor vehicle & parts prices improved 0.1% (0.9% y/y) and have been little changed for five consecutive months. Nonauto consumer goods prices also ticked 0.1% higher (0.3% y/y) after holding fairly steady since February.

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.

The Perplexing Co-Movement of the Dollar and Oil Prices from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is available here.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Imports - All Commodities -1.0 -1.9 0.5 -0.6 3.1 2.9 -3.3
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products -11.6 -16.0 2.9 -14.0 22.1 26.6 -19.7
  Nonpetroleum 0.3 0.0 0.2 1.0 1.3 1.1 -1.5
Exports - All Commodities -0.6 -0.8 0.5 1.1 3.4 2.4 -3.2
  Agricultural 3.9 1.7 -0.1 2.5 0.6 1.5 -5.4
  Nonagricultural -1.1 -1.0 0.5 1.0 3.7 2.5 -3.0
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