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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Ease in October; Export Prices Rise
by Carol Stone, CBE  November 17, 2020

• Oil prices fall again, but some other imports also decrease.

• Export prices were mixed with total up 0.2%.

Import prices edged down 0.1% in October (-1.0% y/y) after rising 0.2% in September, which is revised from 0.3% reported last month. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected no change. During the last three months, import prices were up at a 3.7% annual rate. These figures are not seasonally adjusted and do not include import duties.

The cost of petroleum & petroleum product imports fell 1.0% in October (-29.1% y/y), following a larger 6.8% decline in September, which was revised from 4.2% initially reported. Nonpetroleum import prices were unchanged (+1.8% y/y) in October after a 0.6% increase the month before, revised from 0.7%. They rose at a 5.8% (AR) during the last three months.

Prices of industrial materials imports excluding petroleum turned down 0.2% (+7.3% y/y) in October after rising 3.2% in September and 3.8% in August. Foods, feeds & beverages prices edged just 0.1% (1.9% y/y) higher following September's 1.1% advance. Capital goods prices were flat in October (0.8% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick the month before. Capital goods prices excluding computers slowed to a 0.2% increase (1.4% y/y) from 0.3% in September; prices of computers & peripherals decreased 0.2% (-0.6% y/y) in October. Nonauto consumer goods prices were also down 0.2% (+0.1% y/y) after a 0.1% increase in September. Autos, parts & engine prices edged down 0.1% in the latest month (+1.2%) after a 0.3% rise in September

Export prices slowed from a 0.6% advance in September to a 0.2% increase in October, and they were down 1.6% y/y. A 0.3% increase had been expected in the Action Economics survey. Export prices rose at a 5.4% AR during the last three months.

Agricultural commodities exports had another sizable monthly increase in October, 3.4% m/m, but their relative volatility is shown in a y/y increase of just 3.1%. They had risen 2.8% in September, but fallen 2.3% in August. The changes were spread across a number of food categories. Export prices for the foods, feeds & beverages group had a similar pattern to total agriculture, with a 3.6% rise in October, 2.7% in September and -2.4% in August. Industrial materials prices fell 0.2% in October (-6.6% y/y) after a 0.6% rise in September. Building materials prices and prices of industry-related agricultural materials and supplies rose, but other industrial materials were flat to down. Prices of exports of nonauto consumer goods were generally unchanged while automotive vehicles, parts and engines were up 0.3% in October, having been flat the two previous months. Capital goods export prices were down 0.1% in October (+0.9% y/y) with two of the three major subcategory -- electrical equipment and nonelectrical equipment down 0.1% in the month. Nonauto transportation equipment export prices were up 0.2%.

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, %) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Imports - All Commodities -0.1 0.2 0.8 -1.0 -1.3 3.1 2.9
  Petroleum & Petroleum Products -1.0 -6.8 3.3 -29.1 -2.6 22.0 25.6
  Nonpetroleum 0.0 0.6 0.8 1.8 -1.1 1.3 1.1
Exports - All Commodities 0.2 0.6 0.5 -1.6 -0.9 3.4 2.4
  Agricultural 3.4 2.8 -2.3 3.1 -0.4 0.6 1.5
  Nonagricultural 0.0 0.3 0.9 -2.0 -0.9 3.7 2.5
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