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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import and Export Prices Recover More Than Expected in January
by Winnie Tapasanun  February 16, 2022

• Import prices increase 2.0% in Jan. as fuel prices jump 9.3%, the largest m/m gain since Oct.

• Excluding fuels, import prices rise a record 1.4%.

• Export prices jump a record 2.9% with ag export prices up 3.0% and nonag export prices up 2.9%.

Import prices rose 2.0% m/m (10.8% y/y) in January after a 0.4% decline in December (-0.2% initially) and a 0.7% rise in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The January m/m rise was the fourth in five months and the largest since April 2011. Export prices rose 2.9% last month (15.1% y/y) following a 1.6% drop in December (-1.8% initially) and a 0.7% increase in November (+0.8% initially). The m/m rise in export prices was the 19th in 20 months and the biggest on record. The Action Economics Forecast survey had expected for both export and import prices to rise 1.4% in January.

The rise in import prices in January was driven by a 9.3% gain (60.3% y/y) in imported fuel prices following an 8.3% December decrease (-6.5% initially). The key contributors to the gain in imported fuel costs were m/m rises of 13.1% in crude oil (57.7% y/y), 10.5% in natural gas (118.4% y/y), 9.5% in petroleum & petroleum products (57.7% y/y), and 5.0% in fuel oil (57.3% y/y). Other petroleum products, however, slipped 0.1% (+53.8% y/y) after a 1.6% drop. Nonfuel import prices rose 1.4% (6.9% y/y), the fifth straight monthly gain and the largest on record, after a 0.5% rise, led by m/m price increases of 3.6% in foods, feeds & beverages (15.8% y/y), 3.2% in nonfuel industrial supplies & materials (22.0% y/y), 0.9% in capital goods (3.0% y/y), 0.5% in consumer goods ex autos (2.8% y/y), and 0.1% in automotive vehicles & parts (2.3% y/y).

The January rise in export prices reflected gains in both agricultural and nonagricultural export prices. Agricultural export prices advanced 3.0% (18.0% y/y) in January, the fourth straight m/m gain and the largest since May 2021, after a 0.7% increase in December. Nonagricultural export prices rose 2.9% (14.7% y/y), the 14th m/m rise in 15 months, reversing a 1.9% December drop. Industrial supplies & materials export prices recovered 5.4% (32.6% y/y), the biggest m/m gain since March 2021, after a 4.7% decrease. Export prices for foods, feeds & beverages grew 3.2% (17.3% y/y), the fifth m/m gain in six months, after a 0.3% rise. Nonauto consumer goods prices increased 1.0% (4.5% y/y), the largest of four successive m/m gains, on top of a 0.6% advance. Capital goods prices rose 0.7% (4.0% y/y), the fastest of 13 straight m/m rises, after a 0.3% increase. Auto export prices were up 0.3% (1.9% y/y), the fourth consecutive m/m gain, following a 0.1% uptick.

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, %) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2021 2020 2019
Imports - All Commodities 2.0 -0.4 0.7 10.8 8.8 -2.5 -1.3
  Fuels 9.3 -8.3 2.5 60.3 60.3 -27.8 -2.1
  Nonfuels 1.4 0.5 0.6 6.9 5.2 0.3 -1.1
Exports - All Commodities 2.9 -1.6 0.7 15.1 14.0 -2.8 -0.9
  Agricultural 3.0 0.7 1.1 18.0 24.5 -0.3 -0.4
  Nonagricultural 2.9 -1.9 0.6 14.7 12.8 -3.0 -0.9
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