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U.S. Import Prices up 0.6% in February on Higher Fuel Prices; Export Prices Rise 0.6%

Prices for U.S. imports advanced 0.6 percent in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, after ticking up 0.1% in January and falling 1.4 percent in December. The February increase was led by higher fuel prices. U.S. export prices rose 0.6% in February following decreases of 0.5% and 0.7% the previous 2 months.

Imports U.S. import prices increased 0.6% in February, the largest monthly rise since a 0.9% advance in May. Despite the February increase, import prices declined 1.3% from February 2018 to February 2019. Both fuel and nonfuel prices contributed to the 12-month decrease. (See table 1.)

Fuel Imports: Prices for import fuel rose 4.9% in February, after advancing 4.1% in January and falling 13.3% in December. The February increase was the largest monthly advance since a 6.1% rise in May. Higher prices for both petroleum and natural gas contributed to the February increase. Petroleum prices advanced 4.7% in February and prices for natural gas rose 10.5% over the same period. Despite the February increase, fuel prices fell 6.5% over the past 12 months. Prices for petroleum drove the 12-month decline, falling 7.9%. Natural gas prices partially offset the over-the- year decline, rising 17.5%.

All Imports Excluding Fuel: Nonfuel import prices recorded no change in February following a 0.3% decrease in January. Rising prices for consumer goods and nonfuel industrial supplies and materials offset declining prices for foods, feeds, and beverages and capital goods. Prices for automotive vehicles recorded no change. The price index for nonfuel imports declined 0.6% over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year drop since September 2016.

Nonfuel Industrial Supplies and Materials: Nonfuel industrial supplies and materials prices increased 0.3% in February. Higher prices for lumber, copper, and nickel contributed to the February advance.

Finished Goods: Import prices for finished goods were mixed in February. The price index for consumer goods rose 0.3%, driven by higher prices for medicinal, dental, and pharmaceutical materials. Capital goods prices edged down 0.1 percent and automotive vehicle prices recorded no change.

Foods, Feeds, and Beverages: Prices for foods, feeds, and beverages fell 0.8% in February. The monthly drop was led by a 7.3% decline in vegetable prices. A 2.1% rise in meat prices partially offset the decrease in foods, feeds, and beverages prices.

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

2018

February

0.2 -1.8 0.4 0.2 0.6 0.2

March

-0.2 -2.6 0.1 0.4 3.2 0.1

April

0.5 4.0 0.1 0.5 -1.1 0.7

May

0.9 6.1 0.2 0.7 1.6 0.6

June

0.0 2.6 -0.3 0.2 -1.0 0.3

July

-0.1 0.8 -0.2 -0.5 -5.2 0.1

August

-0.4 -2.1 -0.2 -0.1 0.4 -0.2

September

0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 -1.3 0.2

October

0.5 3.3 0.1 0.5 -0.1 0.5

November

(r)-1.6 (r)-12.2 (r)-0.2 -0.8 1.7 -1.0

December

(r)-1.4 (r)-13.3 0.0 (r)-0.7 (r)3.7 -1.1

2019

January

(r)0.1 (r)4.1 (r)-0.3 (r)-0.5 -2.1 -0.3

February

0.6 4.9 0.0 0.6 0.3 0.7

Feb. 2017 to 2018

3.3 16.0 2.0 3.1 0.7 3.4

Feb. 2018 to 2019

-1.3 -6.5 -0.6 0.3 -0.2 0.3

Footnotes
(r) Revised

Exports

U.S. export prices rose 0.6% in February following a 0.5% decline in January and a 0.7% drop in December. Higher prices for both agricultural and nonagricultural commodities contributed to the February increase. The price index for U.S. exports advanced 0.3% over the past 12 months driven by higher nonagricultural prices. (See table 2.)

Agricultural Exports: Export prices for agricultural commodities rose 0.3% in February, after falling 2.1 percent in January. Despite the February advance, overall agricultural prices fell 0.2% over the past 12 months. Lower prices for soybeans, meat, and nuts drove the 12-month decline.

All Exports Excluding Agriculture: Nonagricultural export prices increased 0.7% in February, the largest monthly rise since April 2018. Higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials led the February increase, with rising prices for each of the finished goods categories contributing to the advance. The price index for nonagricultural exports increased 0.3% for the year ended in February following a 0.2% decline for the 12-month period ended in January. The 12-month rise in February was driven mostly by higher prices for capital goods, offsetting lower prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials.

Nonagricultural Industrial Supplies and Materials: Nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials prices rose 1.6% in February, after recording a 1.4% decline in January. Higher prices for fuel led the February increase, with rising prices for gold contributing as well. Finished Goods: Prices for finished goods were up in February. Capital goods prices rose 0.2%, primarily driven by higher prices for transportation equipment. Prices for export automotive vehicles increased 0.4%, the largest monthly advance since January 2018. In February, consumer goods prices rose 0.3%.

Measures of Import and Export Prices by Locality Imports by Locality of Origin: Import prices from China recorded no change in February following a 0.3% drop in January and a 0.1-percent decline in December. Prices for imports from China decreased 0.7% for the year ended in February, the largest over-the-year drop since the index fell 0.8% in October 2017. The price index for imports from Japan ticked up 0.1% in February, after recording no change in January. Import prices from Canada rose 2.3% in February, and prices for imports from Mexico advanced 0.5% over the same period. The price index for imports from the European Union increased 0.4% in February following a 0.1% rise in January. The February advance was the largest monthly rise since the index increased 0.6% in April 2018. (See table 7.)

Exports by Locality of Destination: The price index for exports to China advanced 0.7% in February following a 0.1% drop the previous month. Higher prices for both manufactured and nonmanufactured exports contributed to the increase. Export prices to Japan rose 1.2% in February, the largest monthly increase since the index advanced 1.4% in February 2018. Prices for exports to Canada increased 0.4% in February, after declining 2.7% the previous month. The price index for exports to Mexico rose 0.5% in February following a 1.4% decline in January. Export prices to the European Union increased 0.6% in February, the largest monthly rise since the index advanced 0.7% in April 2018. (See table 8.)

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 U.S. terms of trade with China rose 0.7% in February, after rising 0.2% in January and falling 0.5% in December. In February, the U.S. terms of trade rose because export prices to China advanced and import prices from China recorded no change. The U.S. terms of trade with Japan increased 1.1% in February, the largest monthly rise since the index advanced 1.2% in February 2018. Higher export prices to Japan more than offset rising import prices from Japan in February. The U.S. terms of trade index with Canada declined 1.9% in February, after a 10.2% decrease in January and a 6.7% advance in December. The index for U.S. terms of trade with Mexico recorded no change in February, and the U.S. terms of trade with the European Union rose 0.2% for the second consecutive month. (See table 9.)

Import and Export Services Imports: The price index for import air passenger fares decreased 2.0% in February following a 3.8% decline in January. A 9.0% drop in Asian fares and a 1.7% fall in European fares contributed to the decrease in February. Import air passenger fares declined 1.7% over the past year. Import air freight prices fell 6.3% in February; the drop was the largest monthly decrease since the index was first published on a monthly basis in December 2005. Despite the recent drop, import air freight prices rose 1.2% over the past year. (See table 10.)

Exports: The index for export air passenger fares declined 8.9% in February, the largest monthly decrease since the index fell 11.6% in February 2017. The decline was led by a 13.6% drop in Asian fares and an 11.6% decrease in Latin American/Caribbean fares. Export air passenger fares decreased 4.0% from February 2018 to February 2019. Export air freight prices increased 0.4% in February, after ticking down 0.1% in both January and December. Export air freight prices advanced 3.8% over the past 12 months.

Import and Export Price Index data for March are scheduled for release on Friday, April 12, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).

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