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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import and Export Prices Unexpectedly Fall in December
by Winnie Tapasanun  January 14, 2022

• Import prices decline 0.2% in December as fuel prices drop 6.5%.

• Excluding fuels, import prices rise 0.5%.

• Export prices fall 1.8% as nonagricultural export prices decrease 2.1%.

Import prices fell 0.2% m/m (+10.4% y/y) in December after unrevised rises of 0.7% in November and 1.5% in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The December m/m fall was the first since August. Export prices fell 1.8% last month (+14.7% y/y) following revised gains of 0.8% in November (+1.0% initially) and 1.9% in October (+1.6% initially). The m/m fall in export prices was the first since April 2020. The Action Economics Forecast survey had expected for both export and import prices to increase 0.3% in December.

The fall in import prices in December was driven by a 6.5% drop (+62.7% y/y) in imported fuel prices following an upwardly revised 2.3% November gain (+2.0% initially). The key contributors to the drop in imported fuel costs were m/m declines of 13.7% in natural gas (+86.9% y/y), 6.7% in crude oil (+59.7% y/y), 6.0% in petroleum & petroleum products (+62.0% y/y), 5.9% in fuel oil (+64.7% y/y), and 1.8% in other petroleum products (+64.1% y/y). Nonfuel import prices, however, rose 0.5% (6.4% y/y), the fourth straight monthly gain, after a 0.5% rise, led by m/m price increases of 1.7% in nonfuel industrial supplies & materials (23.2% y/y), 0.5% in foods, feeds & beverages (13.7% y/y), 0.5% in consumer goods ex autos (2.2% y/y), 0.2% in automotive vehicles & parts (2.8% y/y), and 0.1% in capital goods (2.3% y/y).

The December fall in export prices reflected a moderate gain in agricultural export prices but an unexpected drop in nonagricultural export prices. Agricultural export prices rose 0.8% (21.7% y/y) in December, the third consecutive m/m rise, after a 1.1% gain in November. Nonagricultural export prices fell 2.1% (+13.8% y/y), the first m/m fall since October 2020, reversing a 0.6% November gain. Industrial supplies & materials export prices slid 5.0% (+33.2% y/y), the first m/m slide since October 2020, after a 1.4% gain. In contrast, export prices for foods, feeds & beverages grew 0.4% (20.3% y/y), the fourth m/m gain in five months, on top of a 0.5% increase. Nonauto consumer goods prices rose 0.4% (2.5% y/y), the third successive m/m gain, after a 0.4% rise. Capital goods prices increased 0.3% (3.7% y/y), the 12th straight m/m advance, after a 0.2% rise. Auto export prices were unchanged (+1.8% y/y) following a 0.2% gain.

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, %) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2021 2020 2019
Imports - All Commodities -0.2 0.7 1.5 10.4 8.8 -2.5 -1.3
  Fuels -6.5 2.3 11.1 62.7 60.6 -27.8 -2.1
  Nonfuels 0.5 0.5 0.5 6.4 5.2 0.3 -1.1
Exports - All Commodities -1.8 0.8 1.9 14.7 13.9 -2.8 -0.9
  Agricultural 0.8 1.1 1.2 21.7 24.6 -0.3 -0.4
  Nonagricultural -2.1 0.6 2.0 13.8 12.8 -3.0 -0.9
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