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Economy in Brief

U.S. Import & Export Prices Moderate in April, but Still Strong
by Carol Stone, CBE  May 14, 2021

• Import and export price increases very close to expected amounts.

• Food and fuel prices push import costs.

• Industrial supplies & materials lift export prices; other items much less vigorous.

Import and export price increases were less dramatic in April, but were still quite large. Import prices advanced 0.7% (10.6% y/y), down from 1.4% in March, 1.2% in February and 1.5% in January; these earlier months are indeed month/month amounts and all are slightly revised from previous readings. The April amount is very close to the Action Economics Forecast of 0.6%. Export prices rose 0.8% (14.4% y/y), following 2.4% in March, 1.6% in February and 2.7% in January, with January and March amounts somewhat revised. The April result is equal to the Action Economics forecast of 0.8%.

Among import categories, fuel prices rose "just" 0.5% in April after five months of outsized advances; as a result, the y/y increase for April was 126.9%. Nonpetroleum import costs increased 0.7% m/m, with the y/y amount "just" 5.0%. Food, feed and beverage price increases were still quite large at 2.0% for April (7.5% y/y) Industrial supplies and materials, which include fuels, rose 1.7% in April, up 50.7% y/y. Other prices were much more temperate. Capital goods rose 0.3% (1.3% y/y) in April, automotive vehicles, parts and engines 0.2% (0.9% y/y) and consumer goods ex automotive were flat in the month, up 0.8% y/y.

Export prices, as noted, rose 0.8% in April (14.4% y/y), which, though still a sizable monthly increase by customary standards, was markedly less than the previous four months. Both agricultural and nonagricultural prices had noticeably slower increases, but those were still strong in an absolute sense. Agricultural export prices rose 0.6% m/m and 25.2% y/y. The food, feed and beverage category was up 0.7% m/m and 24.7% y/y. Nonagricultural export prices rose 0.9% in the month, the slowest since November, but with stronger advances in intervening months, the y/y increase was 13.1%.

Among the nonagricultural categories, industrial supplies and materials rose 1.7% in the month, making a 39.2% surge y/y. Other groups had much less sizable advances. Capital goods export prices were up 0.3% in the month or 1.0% y/y. Automotive vehicles, parts and engine prices rose 0.2% in the month or 0.8% y/y, while non-automotive consumer goods export prices actually fell 0.1% over the month or +1.0% 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, %) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Imports - All Commodities 0.7 1.4 1.2 10.6 -2.5 -1.3 3.1
  Fuels 0.5 7.5 11.0 126.5 -27.8 -2.1 20.8
  Nonfuels 0.7 0.9 0.4 5.0 0.3 -1.1 1.3
Exports - All Commodities 0.8 2.4 1.6 14.4 -2.8 -0.9 3.4
  Agricultural 0.6 2.4 2.7 25.2 -0.3 -0.4 0.6
  Nonagricultural 0.9 2.4 1.5 13.1 -3.0 -0.9 3.7
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