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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import Prices Firm Across-the-Board
by Tom Moeller   December 10, 2010

Firmness in oil prices continues to dominate this measure of overall U.S. import prices. During November, import prices jumped another 1.3% after an upwardly revised 1.0% October increase, initially reported as 0.9%. The increase easily outpaced Consensus expectations for a 0.8% rise. A 4.1% jump (7.4% y/y) in petroleum prices accompanied a much firmer 0.7% increase (2.7% y/y) in nonoil prices.

The 4.1% rise in petroleum prices pulled them up 7.4% y/y. So far this month, Brent crude oil prices rose further to $90.67 per barrel yesterday compared to $85.85 in November. Non-oil import prices rose 0.7% during November and have increased 2.2% since year-end. The latest monthly increase was the strongest since June 2008. (The y/y change in non-oil import prices during the last ten years has had a negative 81% correlation with the nominal trade-weighted exchange value of the US dollar vs. major currencies.)

Imported food & beverage prices led again the overall price gain with a 2.4% increase (12.2% y/y) compared to a 2.8% decline during 2009. Strength was across-the-board but strongest for meats & poultry (21.6% y/y). Prices for nonoil industrial supplies also jumped 11.0% y/y led by a 24.1% y/y increase in unfinished metals costs. Prices for non-auto consumer goods posted a slim 0.3% monthly increase (-0.3% y/y. Appliance prices have been strengthening and rose 0.6% y/y after earlier sharp declines but furniture prices fell 1.6% y/y and home entertainment equipment prices declined another 8.8% versus 2009. Imported auto prices generally have been strengthening and rose 1.2% y/y after a 0.4% increase last year and imported capital goods prices slipped 0.2% y/y. Computer & peripherals prices fell 3.9% from last November but excluding computers, capital goods prices rose 1.1% y/y after the 0.7% rise during 2009.

Total export prices rose 1.5% last month and pulled prices up 6.5% y/y. The gain reflected an 8.0% rise (21.0% y/y) in agricultural export prices after a 12.8% decline last year. Non-agricultural goods prices firmed by 0.8% (5.1% y/y) after a 3.7% decline in 2009. Strength has been notable for industrial supplies (14.7% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods (3.2% y/y) after last year's 0.3% uptick.     

The import and export price series can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are available in the USINT database.

Import/Export Prices (NSA, %) Nov. Oct Sept Nov. Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Import - All Commodities 1.3 1.0 0.0 3.7 -11.5 11.5 4.2
 Petroleum 4.1 4.2 -1.4 7.4 -35.9 37.7 11.6
 Nonpetroleum 0.7 0.3 0.3 2.7 -4.1 5.3 2.7
Export - All Commodities 1.5 0.8 0.6 6.5 -4.6 6.0 4.9
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