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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import & Export Prices Continue to Rise in March
by Tom Moeller  April 14, 2021

• Import costs are unexpectedly strong.

• Export price gain picks up.

Import prices increased 1.2% (6.9% y/y) during March following a 1.3% February rise. A 0.9% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Price gains y/y have accelerated markedly across product categories.

A 6.7% rise (53.9% y/y) in petroleum import prices followed four months of strong increase. Nonpetroleum import costs improved 0.9% (4.1% y/y) after firm gains in each of the prior three months. Industrial supplies & materials costs rose 4.8% (29.5% y/y) led higher by the gain in fuel costs. Foods, feeds & beverages prices strengthened 2.0% (3.8% y/y), the strongest of four straight monthly gains. Capital goods prices edged 0.1% higher (1.3% y/y) as they did in February, compared to a 2.0% y/y price decline late in 2019. Nonauto consumer goods prices also rose for a second month by 0.1%. The 0.7% y/y increase was up from 0.6% y/y price deflation in March of last year. Motor vehicle & parts prices held steady, but here again the 1.1% y/y gain compares to 0.7% y/y price deflation as of late-2019.

Export prices strengthened 2.1% after three months of strong increase. The 9.1% y/y increase compared to 7.0% y/y price deflation last April. A 0.9% gain had been expected.

Agricultural prices rose 2.4% (20.5% y/y) while nonagricultural export prices strengthened 2.0% (7.9% y/y). Both y/y price increases compared to deflation in early in 2020. Industrial supplies & materials prices rose 5.0% (21.9% y/y) while foods, feeds & beverage prices improved 2.8% (20.0% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods prices gained 0.6% (0.7% y/y), the strongest m/m increase in six months. Capital goods prices improved 0.1% (0.6% y/y) following two months of 0.4% improvement. Motor vehicle & parts prices held steady but the 0.5% y/y increase compared 0.6% y/y price deflation in July of last year.

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, %) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Imports - All Commodities 1.2 1.3 1.4 6.9 -2.5 -1.3 3.1
  Petroleum 6.7 11.6 9.3 53.9 -29.4 -2.6 22.0
  Nonpetroleum 0.9 0.5 0.9 4.1 0.3 -1.1 1.3
Exports - All Commodities 2.1 1.6 2.6 9.1 -2.8 -0.9 3.4
  Agricultural 2.4 2.8 6.0 20.5 -0.3 -0.4 0.6
  Nonagricultural 2.0 1.5 2.3 7.9 -3.0 -0.9 3.7
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