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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Rise Again as Export Prices Have Another Record Monthly Surge
by Carol Stone, CBE  April 14, 2022

• Fuel prices, up 14.6% in March, again drive import prices.

• Import prices ex fuels increase 1.2%.

• Export prices surge 4.5%, a second monthly record; food and industrial goods both very strong.

Import prices rose 2.6% m/m (12.5% y/y) in March, following a 1.6% rise in February, revised from 1.4% reported last month, and a 2.0% advance in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The March advance was the largest since March 2011. Export prices surged 4.5% (18.8% y/y) in March after 3.0% in February and 2.8% in January; totals in both February and January were unrevised. The m/m rise in export prices was by far the largest ever in these data, which run back to December 1988 on a monthly basis. All these data are not seasonally adjusted. The Action Economics Forecast survey had expected March increases of 2.3% for import prices and 2.2% for export prices.

Fuel was again the main driver of import prices. That category jumped 14.6% m/m in March (66.7% y/y) after 10.0% in February and 7.3% in January. Natural gas, however, fell 4.2% in March, although the y/y change was 79.7% y/y. Nonfuel import prices rose less than fuel costs, but with a 1.2% increase in March, they were hardly weak. Textile, chemicals and selected building materials all had sizable advances in March.

Export prices rose markedly, as indicated. All major categories had sizable increases in March, with food, feed and beverages up 4.9% just in the month of March alone, which made the y/y increase 20.0%. This followed 2.8% m/m in February and 3.2% in January. Industrial supplies and materials prices advanced 8.6% m/m in March (38.2% y/y), after 5.9% in February and 4.8% in January. The other major export groups rose less strongly, but they still had large increases. Capital goods prices were up 0.5% in March (4.5% y/y) after 0.4% in February and 0.8% in January. Automobiles, parts and engines were up 0.8% in March after 0.8% in February and 0.6% in January; the March amount was “just” 3.2% y/y, although that was the strongest y/y performance since May 1990. Export prices of consumer goods excluding autos and parts rose 0.8% m/m in March (4.9% y/y), following 0.7% in February and 1.1% in January.

The import and export price series are 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, %) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2021 2020 2019
Imports - All Commodities 2.6 1.6 2.0 12.5 8.8 -2.5 -1.3
  Fuels 14.6 10.0 7.3 66.7 60.4 -27.8 -2.1
  Nonfuels 1.2 0.7 1.4 7.5 5.2 0.3 -1.1
Exports - All Commodities 4.5 3.0 2.8 18.8 14.0 -2.8 -0.9
  Agricultural 4.7 2.9 3.0 20.8 24.5 -0.3 -0.4
  Nonagricultural 4.5 3.0 2.7 18.5 12.8 -3.0 -0.9
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