Import Prices Increase 1.2 Percent in March on Higher Nonfuel Prices; Export Prices Rise 2.1 Percent

Prices for U.S. imports rose 1.2% in March, after increasing 1.3% the previous month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Higher fuel and nonfuel prices contributed to the advances for both months. U.S. exports also increased in March, rising 2.1%, following a 1.6% advance in February and a 2.6% increase in January.

Imports

U.S. import prices advanced 1.2% in March, 1.3% in February, and 1.4% in January; the 4.1% increase from December to March was the largest three-month rise for import prices since the index advanced 5.8% in May 2011. The price index for U.S. imports increased 6.9% from March 2020 to March 2021, the largest over-the-year advance in the index since a 6.9% rise for the year ended January 2012.

Fuel Imports: Import fuel prices rose 6.3% in March, after increases of 11.7% in February, 8.4% in January, and 7.3% in December. The increases over the past four months were mostly driven by higher petroleum prices. Prices for import petroleum advanced 6.7% in March following a 32.3% rise from November to February. The price index for natural gas also increased in March, advancing 3.6% following an 18.0% increase the previous month. Import fuel prices rose 54.3% for the year ended in March, the largest 12-month advance for the index since a 68.9% increase in February 2017. The price indexes for petroleum and natural gas also rose on a 12-month basis in March, increasing 53.9% and 91.0%, respectively.

All Imports Excluding Fuel: Prices for nonfuel imports rose 0.8% in March following increases of 0.5% in February and 0.9% in January. The March advance was driven by higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; foods, feeds, and beverages; capital goods; and consumer goods. Nonfuel import prices rose 3.8% from March 2020 to March 2021, the largest 12-month increase since the index advanced 4.8% in October 2011.

Nonfuel Industrial Supplies and Materials: The price index for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials rose 3.9% in March, after advancing 1.5% in February. The March increase was led by higher prices for metals, building materials, and chemicals.

Finished Goods: Prices for most of the major finished goods categories increased in March. The price indexes for capital goods and consumer goods ticked up 0.1% for the second consecutive month and automotive vehicle prices recorded no change.

Foods, Feeds, and Beverages: Foods, feeds, and beverages prices rose 2.0% in March, after a 1.4% increase the previous month. In March, an 11.0% advance in fruit prices and a 7.7% rise in food oil prices more than offset a 7.0% drop in vegetable prices.

Exports

Prices for U.S. exports increased 2.1% in March, after rising 1.6% in February and 2.6% in January. The 6.5% advance from December to March was the largest three-month increase since the index was first published in September 1983. In March, higher prices for agricultural and nonagricultural exports both contributed to the advance in export prices. The price index for U.S. exports rose 9.1% from March 2020 to March 2021, the largest over-the-year increase since a 9.4% advance in September 2011.

Agricultural Exports: Agricultural export prices rose 2.4% in March following increases of 2.8% in February and 6.0% in January. The March advance was driven by higher prices for meat, soybeans, fruit, and cotton. Prices for agricultural exports advanced 20.5% over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year rise since the index increased 22.7% in September 2011. The 12-month increase was primarily driven by rising prices for soybeans, corn, meat, and fruit.

All Exports Excluding Agriculture: The price index for nonagricultural exports advanced 2.0% in March, after rising 5.1% from November to February. The March increase was led by higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials; consumer goods; capital goods; and nonagricultural foods. Nonagricultural export prices increased 7.9% over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year advance for the index since a 7.9% rise in September 2011.

Nonagricultural Industrial Supplies and Materials: Nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials prices increased 5.2% in March following a 3.5% advance the previous month. The March rise was primarily driven by an 8.1% increase in fuel prices and a 6.2% advance in chemical prices.

Finished Goods: Prices for the major finished goods categories were mostly up in March. Consumer goods prices rose 0.6%, the largest monthly increase since the index advanced 0.7% in September 2020. In March, the rise was led by higher prices for medicinal, dental, and pharmaceutical materials. Prices for capital goods ticked up 0.1% in March, after increasing 0.4% in each of the two previous months. Automotive vehicle prices recorded no change in March following a 0.1% advance in February.

Measures of Import and Export Prices by Locality

Imports by Locality of Origin: Prices for imports from China increased 0.4% in March, after rising 1.1% from November to February. Import prices from China increased over the past year, rising 1.8%. The March 12-month advance was the largest over-the-year increase since a 1.8% rise in April 2012. Prices for imports from Japan increased 0.2% in March and have not recorded a monthly decline since July 2020. The price index for imports from Japan advanced 0.9% for the year ended in March. Import prices from Canada rose 3.6% in March, after increasing 14.0% from November to February. The advances in each of the past four months were led by higher fuel prices and drove prices for imports from Canada up 30.2% over the past 12 months. Import prices from Mexico rose 0.8% in March following a 0.7% increase in February and a 0.8% advance in January. Prices for imports from the European Union also rose in March, increasing 1.1%.

Exports by Locality of Destination: The price index for exports to China increased 3.5% in March, after a 0.9% advance the previous month. The March rise was the largest one-month increase since the index was first published in December 2017, and contributed to an 11.8% advance from March 2020 to March 2021. Prices for exports to Japan rose 1.2% in March following a 5.2% increase over the three previous months. Export prices to Japan advanced 11.0% for the year ended in March, the largest 12-month rise since the index was first published in December 2017. The price index for exports to Canada increased 1.1% in March, after advancing 1.5% in February and 2.1% in January. Prices for exports to the European Union and Mexico also rose in March, increasing 1.2% and 2.1%, respectively.

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 increased 3.1% in March, the largest one-month advance since the index was first published in December 2017. In March, increasing export prices to China more than offset rising import prices from China. U.S. terms of trade with China advanced 9.8% for the year ended in March, the largest 12-month increase since the index was first published in December 2017. The index for U.S. terms of trade with Japan rose 1.1% in March and 10.0% over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year advance since the index was first published in December 2017. U.S. terms of trade with the European Union and Mexico increased in March, rising 0.2% and 1.3%, respectively. In contrast, the index for U.S. terms of trade with Canada fell 2.4% in March.

Import and Export Services

Imports: Import air passenger fares fell 3.6% in March, after a 1.9% increase in February and a 5.6% drop in January. The March decline was led by lower Asian fares which more than offset higher European fares. The index for import air passenger fares decreased 6.2% for the year ended in March, the smallest 12-month drop since the index fell 4.7% from December 2018 to December 2019. Import air freight prices increased 1.8% in March following a 0.7% advance the previous month. Prices for import air freight also rose over the past year, increasing 71.6%.

Exports: The index for export air passenger fares declined 1.5% in March, after falling 4.7% in February. In March, lower European, Asian, and Latin American/Caribbean fares all contributed to the decrease. Despite the recent declines, export air passenger fares rose 16.7% for the year ended in March, the largest 12-month advance since the index increased 18.1% in August 2011. Export air freight prices increased 2.0% in March and 1.7% over the past 12 months.