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Economy in Brief

Oil Drives Gains U.S. Import and Export Prices
by Gerald D. Cohen  January 14, 2021

• Import prices rose 0.9% in December as fuel prices jumped 7.8%.

• Export prices gained 1.1% with fuels up 8.9%.

• Excluding fuels both import and export prices increased 0.4%.

Import prices grew a greater-than-expected 0.9% during December (-0.3% year-on-year), following a slightly upwardly revised 0.2% gain in November (was 0.1%). The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 0.6% growth. On an annual average basis, import prices fell 2.5% y/y in 2020 after declining 1.3% in 2019. These figures are not seasonally adjusted and do not include import duties.

The increase in import prices last month was primarily driven by a 7.8% jump in fuel import costs (-19.5% y/y). Nonfuel import prices rose 0.4% (1.9% y/y). Among key end-use categories, capital goods, the largest category of imports, was unchanged (1.0% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices the second largest, ticked up 0.1% (0.2% y/y). Motor vehicle prices were also unchanged (1.1% y/y).

Export prices increased 1.1% in December (0.2% y/y), following a slightly upwardly revised 0.7% gain in November (was 0.6%). Forecasters' expected 0.5% growth in December. On an annual average basis, export prices fell 2.8% y/y in 2020 after declining 0.9% in 2019. Nonagricultural prices jumped 1.3% in December (-0.2% y/y) while agricultural prices were up 0.6% (5.1% y/y). Among key end use categories, capital goods prices, the largest category making up over one-third of all goods exports, ticked up 0.1% in December (0.5% y/y). Nonagricultural industrial supplies & materials – which includes fuels and is the second largest category – jumped 3.4% (-1.6% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices rose 0.4% (-0.1% y/y).

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 2020 2019 2018
Imports - All Commodities 0.9 0.2 -0.1 -0.3 -2.5 -1.3 3.1
  Fuels 7.8 4.8 -1.0 -19.5 -27.8 -2.1 20.8
  Nonfuels 0.4 -0.2 0.0 1.9 0.3 -1.1 1.3
Exports - All Commodities 1.1 0.7 0.2 0.2 -2.8 -0.9 3.4
  Agricultural 0.6 3.5 3.5 5.1 -0.3 -0.4 0.6
  Nonagricultural 1.3 0.3 -0.2 -0.2 -3.1 -0.9 3.7
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