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Economy in Brief

Import Prices Continue Their Decline; Both Oil and Nonoil Prices Move Lower
by Gerald D. Cohen  February 15, 2019

Import prices fell a greater-than-expected 0.5% during January (-1.7% year-on-year) following a 1.0% drop in December. Prices were down 1.7% in November. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected a flat reading for January. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The decline in import prices last month was led by a 0.7% drop (-0.4% y/y) in nonpetroleum import costs which followed a 0.3% rise. Petroleum import prices edged down 0.1% (-14.5 y/y) following double-digit decreases in the prior two months. Among end-use categories, industrial supplies & materials costs excluding petroleum fell 3.3% (-0.9% y/y). Capital goods prices ticked up 0.1% (-0.1% y/y). Motor vehicle & parts prices were down 0.2% (-0.4% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.3% (+0.3% y/y).

Export prices decreased a greater-than expected 0.6% for the second consecutive month (-0.2% y/y). Forecasters' anticipated -0.3%. Agricultural commodities prices dropped 2.1% last month (+0.2% y/y) reversing some of December's 3.8% rise. Nonagricultural export costs declined 0.3% (-0.2% y/y), down for the third consecutive month. Food, feeds & beverage prices fell 2.1% (+0.7% y/y). While the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that as a result of the government shutdown they did not have data from their usual source for Wheat, Soy and Corn, the Food and Agricultural categories were unaffected. The cost of industrial supplies & materials weakened 1.3% (-2.3% y/y). Capital goods prices rose 0.4% (1.4% y/y), while motor vehicle & parts prices edged up 0.1% (+0.4% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.4% (-0.1% 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.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently published an interesting piece, The Perplexing Co-Movement of the Dollar and Oil Prices, which is available here.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Imports - All Commodities -0.5 -1.0 -1.7 -1.7 3.2 2.9 -3.3
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products -0.1 -10.7 -15.1 -14.5 22.4 26.6 -19.7
  Nonpetroleum -0.7 0.3 0.0 -0.4 1.3 1.1 -1.5
Exports - All Commodities -0.6 -0.6 -0.8 -0.2 3.4 2.4 -3.2
  Agricultural -2.1 3.8 1.7 0.2 0.6 1.5 -5.4
  Nonagricultural -0.3 -1.1 -1.0 -0.2 3.7 2.5 -3.0
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