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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Unexpectedly Dip
by Peter D'Antonio  September 15, 2021

• Import prices post first decline since October.

• Imported fuel prices dip.

• Export price increases moderate.

Import prices declined 0.3% in August (9.0% y/y) following a 0.4% June increase, revised from 0.3%. It was the first decline since October 2020. The Action Economics Forecast survey expected a 0.3% increase. Export prices moderated, rising 0.4% last month (16.8% y/y) after gaining a revised 1.1% in July. The Action Economics Forecast median expected a 0.5% rise.

The price index for imported fuels declined 2.3% in July (56.5% y/y) after increasing 3.0% in June. Nonfuel import prices edged down 0.1% (5.6% y/y) after a 0.1% rise. The weakness was centered in industrial supplies and materials excluding fuels, which dropped 1.3% in August after a 1.2% decline in July. Specifically, building materials import prices fell 17.3% after a 14.9% decline. These sharp declines in building materials represented a sharp reversal from the 79.2% y/y surge through June.

Prices of other categories of imports continued to rise. Foods, feeds, and beverage prices rose 0.6% (9.9% y/y) following a 0.6% increase in July. Automotive vehicle, parts & engine import prices rose 0.3% (2.0% y/y) after rising 0.4% in the prior month. Nonauto consumer goods prices edged 0.1% higher (1.0% y/y) after a 0.2% increase, while capital goods costs gained 0.1% (1.9% y/y), following a 0.5% rise in July.

The 0.4% rise in August export prices was led by a 1.1% gain in agricultural prices, which was a partial reversal of a 1.7% decline in July. Prices for nonagricultural exports rose 0.2% (15.0% y/y) following a 1.4% July increase. Industrial supplies and materials prices rose 0.7% (39.7% y/y) after a 2.9% rise in July. Capital goods prices edged up 0.1% (2.2% y/y) after a 0.4% increase. Auto export prices rose 0.2% (1.8% y/y) following a 0.4% gain, while nonauto consumer goods prices posted a 0.3% decline (2.3% y/y) following a 0.2% dip.

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, %) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Imports - All Commodities -0.3 0.4 1.1 9.0 -2.5 -1.3 3.1
  Fuels -2.3 3.0 5.1 56.5 -27.8 -2.1 20.8
  Nonfuels -0.1 0.1 0.7 5.6 0.3 -1.1 1.3
Exports - All Commodities 0.4 1.1 1.2 16.8 -2.8 -0.9 3.4
  Agricultural 1.1 -1.7 1.4 33.4 -0.3 -0.4 0.6
  Nonagricultural 0.2 1.4 1.1 14.9 -3.0 -0.9 3.7
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