Import Prices Increase 1.1% in May on Higher Nonfuel Prices; Export Prices Rise 2.2%

Prices for U.S. imports increased 1.1% in May, after a 0.8% advance the previous month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Higher prices for fuel and nonfuel imports contributed to both the May and April rises. U.S. export prices increased 2.2% in May following a 1.1% advance in April.

Imports

U.S. import prices continued to trend up in May, rising 1.1% following increases of 0.8% in April, 1.5% in March, and 1.2% in February. Prices for U.S. imports have not recorded a decline since the index edged down 0.1% in October. The price index for U.S. imports advanced 11.3% for the year ended in May, the largest 12-month rise since a 12.7% increase from September 2010 to September 2011.

Fuel Imports: Prices for import fuel rose 4.0% in May following a 1.6% advance in April. The price index for import fuel rose 109.6% for the year ended in May. Price increases for petroleum and natural gas drove both the May increase and the 12-month advance. Petroleum prices increased 3.8% in May, after rising 2.2% the previous month. Prices for import petroleum advanced 114.8% over the past 12 months. The price index for natural gas rose 7.8% in May following a 10.4% drop in April. Natural gas prices increased 64.1% from May 2020 to May 2021.

All Imports Excluding Fuel: The price index for imports excluding fuel rose 0.9% in May, after rising 0.7% the previous month. The May increase was led by higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials, consumer goods, and automotive vehicles. Nonfuel import prices rose 6.0% over the past year, the largest 12-month advance since the index increased 6.1% in September 2008.

Nonfuel Industrial Supplies and Materials: Nonfuel industrial supplies and materials prices rose 4.9% in May following a 2.8% advance in April. The May increase was driven by higher prices for selected building materials, unfinished metals, and chemicals.

Finished Goods: Prices for most of the major finished goods categories increased in May. Consumer goods prices rose 0.2%, led by higher prices for other household goods; medicinal, dental, and pharmaceutical materials; and televisions and video receivers. Prices for automotive vehicles also advanced in May, ticking up 0.1%. Capital goods prices recorded no change in May.

Foods, Feeds, and Beverages: Foods, feeds, and beverages prices decreased 0.4% in May, after rising 2.3% the previous month. The May decline was driven by lower fruit and vegetable prices.

Exports

Prices for U.S. exports continued to rise in May, increasing 2.2%, after advances of 1.1% in April, 2.5% in March, and 1.6% in February. U.S. export prices have not recorded a monthly drop since a 3.5% decrease in April 2020. In May, higher prices for nonagricultural and agricultural exports both contributed to the overall advance. The price index for U.S. exports rose 17.4% from May 2020 to May 2021, the largest over-the-year increase in the series, which was first published in September 1983. The 12-month advance in May topped the previous high of 14.9% recorded the previous month.

Agricultural Exports: The price index for agricultural exports rose 6.1% in May following a 0.6-% increase the previous month. The May advance was the largest one-month rise since the index increased 7.6% in November 2010. In May, the advance was driven by an 11.1% rise in soybean prices, a 27.5% increase in corn prices, and an 18.8% advance in wheat prices. Prices for agricultural exports rose 33.6% over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year increase since the index advanced 33.9% from April 2010 to April 2011.

All Exports Excluding Agriculture: Nonagricultural export prices advanced 1.7% in May, after rising 1.2% in April. The May increase was driven by higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials and consumer goods, which more than offset lower prices for automotive vehicles and nonagricultural foods. Prices for nonagricultural exports rose 15.7% over the past year, the largest 12-month advance in the series, which was first published in March 1985.

Nonagricultural Industrial Supplies and Materials: The price index for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials rose 4.1% in May and 47.1% over the past year. The increase in May was led by a 5.5% advance in fuel prices and a 4.8-percent rise in chemical prices.

Finished Goods: Prices for the major finished goods categories were mixed in May. Consumer goods prices increased 0.6% following advances of 0.1% in April and 0.7% in March. In contrast, prices for automotive vehicles declined 0.3% in May, led by lower prices for non-engine parts. The price index for capital goods was unchanged in May, after increasing 1.3% from December to April.

Measures of Import and Export Prices by Locality

Imports by Locality of Origin: Prices for imports from China increased 0.5% in May, after advancing 0.3% to 0.4% in each of the previous five months. The May rise was the largest monthly increase since the index advanced 0.6% in March 2011. Import prices from China rose 2.7% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase since the index advanced 3.3% from February 2011 to February 2012. The price index for imports from Japan rose 0.4% in May following a 0.5% increase in April. Prices for imports from Japan advanced 2.4% for the year ended in May, the largest over-the-year rise since a 2.4% increase in November 2011. Import prices from Canada advanced 4.5% in May. The price indexes for imports from the European Union and Mexico also rose in May, advancing 0.6% and 0.2%, respectively.

Exports by Locality of Destination: Export prices to China increased 2.4% in May following advances of 0.9% in April and 3.5% in March. Prices for exports to China rose 17.7% over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year increase since the index was first published in December 2017.

The price index for exports to Japan advanced 3.3% in May, after a 0.3% rise the previous month. The May increase was the largest one-month advance since the index rose 4.4% in June 2020. Export prices to Japan increased 19.7% for the year ended in May, the largest 12-month advance since the index was first published in December 2017. Prices for exports to Canada and the European Union also rose in May, increasing 1.2% and 1.1%, respectively. The price index for exports to Mexico advanced 7.8% in May and 28.1% over the past year. Both increases were the largest recorded since the index was first published in December 2017.

Terms of Trade Indexes: Terms of trade indexes are based on country, region, or grouping and measure the change in the purchasing power of exports relative to imports. The index for U.S. terms of trade with China rose 2.0% in May following advances of 0.6% and 3.1% the previous two months.

Despite the largest increase in import prices from China since March 2011, the rise in export prices to China drove U.S. terms of trade with China up in May. The index for U.S. terms of trade with Japan rose 3.0% in May, the largest monthly advance since a 4.1% increase in June 2020. U.S. terms of trade with Mexico rose 7.5%, the largest monthly advance since the index was first published in December 2017. The index for U.S. terms of trade with the European Union increased 0.6% in May. In contrast, U.S. terms of trade with Canada fell 3.1% in May and have not recorded a monthly rise since November 2020.

Import and Export Services

Imports: Import air passenger fares increased 5.0% in May, primarily driven by higher Asian fares, which rose 14.9%. The index for import air passenger fares also advanced over the past year, rising 13.5%, the largest 12-month increase since the index advanced 13.6% in February 2011. Prices for import air freight advanced 5.1% in May, after increasing 7.6% in April. Import air freight prices also rose over the past 12-months, increasing 6.3%. The advance was the lowest over-the-year rise since a 3.3% increase in March 2020.

Exports: Export air passenger fares fell 1.8% in May following a 0.2% advance the previous month. The May decline was led by lower Latin American/Caribbean and Asian fares, which more than offset higher European fares. Despite the decrease, export air passenger fares rose 25.2% over the past year. Export air freight prices fell 0.2% in May, after declining 2.5% in April. Prices for export air freight advanced 0.5% over the past 12 months.