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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import and Export Prices Continue to Decline
by Tom Moeller  April 14, 2020

• Lower oil prices drag costs lower.

• Prices for other goods weaken.

Import prices weakened 2.3% (-4.1% y/y) during March after falling 0.7% in February, revised from -0.5%. A 3.0% decline had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. These figures are not seasonally adjusted and do not include import duties.

A 27.4% decline (-36.0% y/y) in petroleum & petroleum product prices accounted for virtually all of the total's drop. It followed an 8.8% fall during February. Nonpetroleum import prices eased 0.1% (-0.9% y/y) after a 0.2% rise.

Lower prices for foods, feeds & beverages weakened the import price total with a 1.0% decline (+0.1% y/y). Prices of industrial materials excluding petroleum eased 0.2% (-2.4% y/y). Capital goods prices rose 0.1% (-1.2% y/y) for a fourth straight month as computer, peripheral & semiconductor costs increased 0.6% (-5.4% y/y). Capital goods prices excluding these technology products held steady (0.4% y/y). Auto, parts & engine prices improved 0.4% (0.5% y/y) as nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.3% (-0.6% y/y) following two months of stability.

Export prices declined 1.6% last month (-3.6% y/y) after weakening 1.1% in February. A 1.9% fall had been expected.

The decline reflected a 1.4% drop (-2.2% y/y) in agricultural product prices. Nonagricultural product prices also weakened by 1.5% (-3.7% y/y). Prices for foods, feeds & beverages dropped 1.5% (-1.8% y/y) Industrial materials prices weakened 4.5% (-11.2% y/y) as petroleum product costs fell 14.6% (-29.8% y/y). Capital goods prices improved 0.2% (0.8% y/y) as computer, peripheral & semiconductor prices gained 0.8% (-2.6% y/y). Excluding these products, the cost of capital goods improved 0.1% (1.6% y/y). Auto & auto product export prices gained 0.1% (-0.3% y/y) for a second month while nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.6% (-0.2% 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, %) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Imports - All Commodities -2.3 -0.7 0.2 -4.1 -1.3 3.1 2.9
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products -27.4 -8.8 0.3 -36.0 -2.6 22.0 25.6
  Nonpetroleum -0.1 0.2 0.1 -0.9 -1.1 1.3 1.1
Exports - All Commodities -1.6 -1.1 0.6 -3.6 -0.9 3.4 2.4
  Agricultural -1.4 -2.7 2.2 -2.2 -0.4 0.6 1.5
  Nonagricultural -1.5 -1.1 0.6 -3.7 -0.9 3.7 2.5
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