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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import and Export Prices Trend Lower
by Tom Moeller  May 14, 2020

• Nonoil import prices weaken and oil prices collapse.

• Export price decline reflects lower farm product prices.

Import prices weakened 2.6% (-6.8% y/y) during April after a little-revised 2.4% March decline. A 3.4% decline had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. These figures are not seasonally adjusted and do not include import duties.

A one-third decline (-58.5% y/y) in petroleum & petroleum product prices again accounted for most of the total's drop. It followed a 26.5% fall during March. Nonpetroleum import prices were down 0.5% (-1.1% y/y) after easing 0.2%.

Lower prices for foods, feeds & beverages weakened the import price total with a 1.3% decline (-4.1% y/y). Prices of industrial materials excluding petroleum were off 3.2% both m/m and y/y. Capital goods prices rose 0.1% (-0.7% y/y) for a fifth straight month as computer, peripheral & semiconductor costs eased 0.4% (-3.3% y/y). Capital goods prices excluding these technology products held steady (0.3% y/y) for a second straight month. Auto, parts & engine prices improved 0.4% (0.9% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.2% (-0.6% y/y).

Export prices declined 3.3% last month (-7.0% y/y) after weakening 1.7% in March. A 2.3% fall had been expected.

The decline reflected a 3.1% drop (-4.1% y/y) in agricultural product prices. Nonagricultural product prices weakened by 3.3% (-7.3% y/y). Prices for foods, feeds & beverages dropped 3.0% (-3.2% y/y). Industrial materials prices were off 9.7% (-20.5% y/y) as petroleum product costs fell 32.7% (-54.3% y/y). Capital goods prices held steady (0.8% y/y) as computer, peripheral & semiconductor prices gained 0.6% (-0.9% y/y). Excluding these products, the cost of capital goods slipped 0.1% (+1.2% y/y). Auto & auto product export prices were unchanged for a second straight month (-0.4% y/y) while nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.3% (-0.7% 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, %) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Imports - All Commodities -2.6 -2.4 -0.7 -6.8 -1.3 3.1 2.9
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products -33.0 -26.5 -8.9 -58.5 -2.6 22.0 25.6
  Nonpetroleum -0.5 -0.2 0.2 -1.1 -1.1 1.3 1.1
Exports - All Commodities -3.3 -1.7 -1.2 -7.0 -0.9 3.4 2.4
  Agricultural -3.1 -1.5 -2.8 -4.1 -0.4 0.6 1.5
  Nonagricultural -3.3 -1.7 -1.1 -7.3 -0.9 3.7 2.5
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