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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Price Gains Moderate During September
by Tom Moeller  October 15, 2020

• Oil prices backpedal.

• Export price gains remain firm.

Import prices increased 0.3% (-1.1% y/y) during September after rising 1.0% in August, revised from 0.9%. The increase matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. During the last three months, import prices rose a still firm 10.3% (AR). These figures are not seasonally adjusted and do not include import duties.

A 4.2% decline in the cost of petroleum & petroleum products (-28.1% y/y) accounted for most of the moderation in prices last month. It followed four straight months of increase. The August rise was revised to 3.5% from 2.9%. Nonpetroleum import prices improved 0.7% (1.8% y/y) following an unrevised 0.8% August gain. Prices have risen at a strengthened 7.0% (AR) during the last three months. It was the strongest growth since May 2011, improved from price deflation as recently as April. Import prices of industrial materials excluding petroleum strengthened 3.4% in September (7.8% y/y) following a 3.9% August gain. Rising 0.8% (1.4% y/y) were prices of foods, feedsbeverages, improved from price deflation in 2019 and 2018. Capital goods prices edged 0.1% higher (0.6% y/y) for a second consecutive month and have been rising steadily near that rate since December. Capital goods prices excluding computers strengthened an accelerated 0.3% (1.1% y/y), up from no change as of late-2018. Computer & peripherals prices fell 0.4% (-1.1% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices improved 0.1% in September (0.1% y/y) after gaining 0.2% in each of the prior three months. Auto, parts & engine prices improved 0.2% following a 0.1% gain. The 1.1% three-month rise contrasts with -0.6% during all of last year.

Export prices rose 0.6% last month (-1.8% y/y) following a 0.5% August improvement. A 0.1% uptick had been expected. Prices have risen 8.6% (AR) during the last three months.

The rise in September export prices reflected a 2.7% gain (1.3% y/y) in agricultural product prices which reversed the August decline. Prices have risen 8.4% (AR) during the last three months. Nonagricultural export prices improved 0.3% (-2.2% y/y) following a 0.8% gain. Export prices for foods, feeds & beverages strengthened 2.7% (1.1% y/y) after falling 2.1%. Industrial materials prices rose 0.7% (-6.9% y/y) as petroleum product costs were off 1.3% (-26.9% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices increased 0.6% after improving 0.4% in August. Three-month growth surged to 5.2% after prices declined at a 3.5% rate in the second quarter. Capital goods prices improved 0.1% (0.8% y/y) after holding steady in August. Computer, peripheral & semiconductor prices were off 0.6% last month (-1.0% y/y) after easing 0.2%. Excluding these products, the cost of capital goods rose 0.2% (1.1% y/y) for the second time in three months. Auto & auto product export prices held steady (-0.3% y/y) after declining in four of the last five months.

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, %) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Imports - All Commodities 0.3 1.0 1.2 -1.1 -1.3 3.1 2.9
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products -4.2 3.5 16.4 -28.1 -2.6 22.0 25.6
  Nonpetroleum 0.7 0.8 0.2 1.8 -1.1 1.3 1.1
Exports - All Commodities 0.6 0.5 1.0 -1.8 -0.9 3.4 2.4
  Agricultural 2.7 -2.3 1.6 1.3 -0.4 0.6 1.5
  Nonagricultural 0.3 0.8 0.9 -2.2 -0.9 3.7 2.5
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