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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import and Export Prices Soared in October
by Sandy Batten  November 16, 2021

• Import prices increased 1.2% m/m as fuel prices jumped 8.6%.

• Nonfuel import prices were up a more modest 0.4% m/m.

• Export prices surged 1.5% m/m with y/y advance highest on record.

Import prices jumped 1.2% m/m (10.7% y/y) in October following an unrevised 0.4% m/m gain in September. The October m/m gain was the eleventh in the past 12 months. Export prices surged 1.5% m/m (18.0% y/y) in October after an upwardly revised 0.4% m/m rise in September (originally +0.1% m/m). The yearly increase in export prices in October was the largest in the history of the series dating back to September 1983. The Action Economics Forecast survey had expected a 1.0% m/m increase in import prices and a 0.9% m/m rise in export prices in October.

The rise in import prices in October was driven largely by an 8.6% jump (86.7% y/y) in imported fuel costs on top of an upwardly revised 3.9% increase in September (originally 3.7%). The key contributors to the gain in imported fuel prices were a 12.1% m/m rise in the price of fuel oil and a 17.0% m/m jump in the price of coal and natural gas. Nonfuel import prices rose 0.4% m/m (5.5% y/y) in October following a slightly upwardly revised 0.1% monthly rise in September (originally reported as unchanged). Though the rise in nonfuel prices was modest, it was relatively widespread with a 0.8% m/m increase in foods, feeds and beverages, a 0.9% m/m gain in industrial materials excluding fuels, the first monthly increase in four months, and a 0.7% m/m rise in auto and parts prices, the largest monthly increase since April 2012.

The October surge in export prices reflected sizable increases in both agricultural and nonagricultural export prices. Ag export prices increased 1.0% m/m (24.5% y/y) in October after falling 1.5% m/m in September. In October, higher prices for wheat, other animal feeds, cotton, meat, and dairy products more than offset lower soybean prices. Nonag export prices increased 1.5% m/m (17.2% y/y) in October following an upwardly revised 0.6% m/m increase in September (originally +0.3% m/m). The 17.2% annual rise in nonag export prices was also a series high. Nonag export prices have not recorded a monthly decline since October 2020. In October, higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials (due mostly to a 7.0% m/m jump in exported fuel prices); capital goods; automotive vehicles; consumer goods; and nonagricultural foods all contributed to the advance in nonag export prices.

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 2020 2019 2018
Imports - All Commodities 1.2 0.4 -0.2 10.7 -2.5 -1.3 3.1
  Fuels 8.6 3.9 -2.3 86.7 -27.8 -2.1 20.8
  Nonfuels 0.4 0.1 0.0 5.5 0.3 -1.1 1.3
Exports - All Commodities 1.5 0.4 0.3 18.0 -2.8 -0.9 3.4
  Agricultural 1.0 -1.5 0.9 24.5 -0.3 -0.4 0.6
  Nonagricultural 1.5 0.6 0.3 17.2 -3.0 -0.9 3.7
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