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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Rise With Oil Costs in May
by Tom Moeller  June 12, 2020

• Oil prices reverse part of April's decline.

• Nonoil prices edge higher.

• Export prices rise moderately.

Import prices improved 1.0% during May (-6.0% y/y) after an unrevised 2.6% April decline. A 0.5% rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. These figures are not seasonally adjusted and do not include import duties.

A 21.7% rebound in petroleum & petroleum product prices accounted for most of the total's increase last month. It followed a 32.6% fall during April. Nonpetroleum import prices improved 0.1% after declining for two consecutive months.

Higher prices for foods, feeds & beverages helped keep non-oil import prices positive with a 2.2% rise (-1.4% y/y), reversing the prior month's 1.6% decline. Prices of industrial materials excluding petroleum fell 0.6% (-2.9% y/y), down for the fourth month in the last five. Capital goods prices held steady (-0.6% y/y) following five straight months of modest increase as computer, peripheral & semiconductor costs rose 0.2% (-2.9% y/y). Capital goods prices excluding these technology products eased 0.1% (+0.4% y/y) following three straight 0.1% increases. Auto, parts & engine prices slipped 0.1% (+0.8% y/y) after rising 0.4% and nonauto consumer goods prices edged 0.1% higher (-0.3% y/y) after falling for two consecutive months.

Export prices rose 0.5% last month (-6.0% y/y) after declining an unrevised 3.3% in April. A 0.4% gain had been expected.

The rise reflected a 0.6% gain (-6.3% y/y) in nonagricultural product prices. Agricultural product prices weakened 0.5% (-3.5% y/y). Prices for foods, feeds & beverages dropped 0.6% (-2.7% y/y), off for the fourth straight month. Industrial materials prices improved 2.2% (-17.5% y/y) as petroleum product costs increased 10.7% (-46.8% y/y). Capital goods prices fell 0.2% (+0.6% y/y) as computer, peripheral & semiconductor prices eased 0.2% (-0.6% y/y). Excluding these products, the cost of capital goods slipped 0.1% (+0.9% y/y) for a second straight month. Auto & auto product export prices eased 0.1% (-0.5% y/y) for a second straight month while nonauto consumer goods prices declined 0.2% (-0.9% y/y), off for the third consecutive month.

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 2019 2018 2017
Imports - All Commodities 1.0 -2.6 -2.4 -6.0 -1.3 3.1 2.9
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products 21.7 -32.6 -27.2 -51.5 -2.6 22.0 25.6
  Nonpetroleum 0.1 -0.4 -0.2 -0.6 -1.1 1.3 1.1
Exports - All Commodities 0.5 -3.3 -1.4 -6.0 -0.9 3.4 2.4
  Agricultural -0.5 -3.1 -1.5 -3.5 -0.4 0.6 1.5
  Nonagricultural 0.6 -3.3 -1.4 -6.3 -0.9 3.7 2.5
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