Blog Post

January Sees Largest One-Month Rise in Import Index Since March 2012

Prices for U.S. imports increased 1.4% in January, after rising 1.0% in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The January advance was the largest 1-month rise since the index increased 1.4% in March 2012. U.S. export prices increased 2.5% in January following advances of 1.3% and 0.7% the two previous months. The January increase was the largest advance since the index was first published on a monthly basis in December 1988.

Imports

The price index for U.S. imports rose 1.4% in January following a 1.0% increase the previous month. Higher fuel and nonfuel prices both contributed to the advances in January and December. U.S. import prices rose 0.9% for the year ended in January, the first over-the-year increase since January 2020 and the largest 12-month advance since the index increased 3.4% from October 2017 to October 2018. (See table 1.)

Fuel Imports:

Import fuel prices increased 7.4% in January following advances of 8.1% in December and 4.4% in November. In January, higher petroleum prices more than offset lower natural gas prices. Prices for import petroleum advanced 8.3% in January, after rising 9.3% in December and 2.5% in November. Despite the recent increases, import fuel prices decreased 13.4% for the year ended in January. A 14.3% decline in petroleum prices more than offset an 11.3% advance in natural gas prices. The 12-month decrease in fuel prices was the smallest over-the-year drop for the index since February 2020.

All Imports Excluding Fuel:

Nonfuel import prices rose 0.8% in January following a 0.4% advance the previous month. The January increase was the largest monthly rise since April 2011. In January, higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; foods, feeds, and beverages; capital goods; and automotive vehicles more than offset lower prices for import consumer goods. Prices for nonfuel imports increased 2.5% over the past 12 months, primarily driven by rising nonfuel industrial supplies and materials prices.

Nonfuel Industrial Supplies and Materials:

Prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials advanced 4.2% in January, the largest monthly increase since the index was first published in December 2001. The January rise was mainly led by higher prices for unfinished metals and lumber.

Finished Goods:

Finished goods prices were mixed in January. Prices for capital goods and automotive vehicles each advanced 0.2%. The price index for import consumer goods edged down 0.1%. Foods, Feeds, and Beverages: The price index for foods, feeds, and beverages increased 2.1% in January, after ticking up 0.1% the previous month. The January advance was driven by increasing prices for fruits and vegetables.

Table A. Percent change in Import and Export Price Indexes, selected categories

 
Month IMPORTS EXPORTS
All
imports
Fuel
imports
Nonfuel
imports
All
exports
Agri-
cultural
exports
Non-
agricultural
exports

2020

January

0.2 -0.1 0.3 0.6 2.0 0.6

February

-0.7 -9.1 0.2 -1.2 -2.9 -1.1

March

-2.4 -26.5 0.0 -1.4 -1.4 -1.4

April

-2.6 -30.9 -0.5 -3.5 -3.3 -3.5

May

0.7 13.9 0.1 0.0 -0.4 0.0

June

1.3 20.6 0.3 1.8 1.6 1.7

July

1.2 15.2 0.2 1.0 1.6 0.9

August

0.9 3.7 0.7 0.5 -2.2 0.9

September

0.2 -4.7 0.5 0.6 2.8 0.3

October

-0.1 -1.0 0.0 0.2 3.5 -0.2

November

(r)0.1 (r)4.4 -0.2 0.7 3.5 (r)0.5

December

(r)1.0 (r)8.1 0.4 (r)1.3 (r)0.9 1.3

2021

January

1.4 7.4 0.8 2.5 6.0 2.2

Jan. 2019 to 2020

0.5 13.2 -0.9 0.4 3.1 0.2

Jan. 2020 to 2021

0.9 -13.4 2.5 2.3 9.4 1.5

Exports

Prices for U.S. exports rose 2.5% in January, after advances of 1.3% in December and 0.7% in November. Higher agricultural and nonagricultural prices both contributed to the January increase in export prices. The price index for U.S. exports rose 2.3% for the year ended in January, the largest 12-month increase since the index advanced 3.1% in October 2018. (See table 2.)

Agricultural Exports:

Agricultural export prices increased 6.0% in January following a 0.9% advance in December. The January rise was the largest monthly increase since the index advanced 6.0% in July 2012; higher prices for soybeans, corn, wheat, cotton, meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts all contributed to the January advance. Prices for agricultural exports rose 9.4% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase since the index advanced 9.6% in June 2013. The rise from January 2020 to January 2021 was led by a 41.5% increase in soybean prices and a 27.7% advance in corn prices.

All Exports Excluding Agriculture:

Prices for nonagricultural exports rose 2.2% in January, the largest one-month increase since the index was first published monthly in December 1988. The January advance followed a 1.3% rise in December and was driven by higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials; capital goods; and automotive vehicles which more than offset declining consumer goods prices. Nonagricultural export prices increased 1.5% for the year ended in January. The advance was primarily led by higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials.

Nonagricultural Industrial Supplies and Materials:

Nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials prices advanced 6.0% in January, after rising 3.7% in December. The January increase was driven by higher prices for fuel, nonferrous metals, steelmaking materials, and chemicals.

Finished Goods:

Finished goods prices were mixed in January. Prices for capital goods ticked up 0.1% and automotive vehicle prices advanced 0.3%. In contrast, consumer goods prices fell 0.7% in January. The decline was led by a 2.1% drop in the price index for medicinal, dental, and pharmaceutical materials. The January decline in consumer goods prices was the largest monthly drop since the index decreased 1.0% in January 2017.

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