Import And Export Prices Unexpectedly Dive

Headline price inflation numbers on imports and exports both came in well below consensus estimates.

Let's investigate the BLS Import and Export Price Indexes for January 2019.

Imports Month-Over-Month and Year-Over-Year

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Imports: Prices for U.S. imports declined 0.5 percent in January and 3.1 percent over the last 3 months. The 3-month drop was the largest decrease since the index fell 3.1 percent from July 2015 to October 2015. Import prices decreased 1.7 percent over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year decline since the index fell 2.2 percent in August 2016.

Fuel Imports: Import fuel prices decreased 3.2 percent in January and 22.5 percent over the past 3 months, the largest drop over a 3-month period since the index fell 29.2 percent for the 3 months ended in February 2016. The January drop was primarily driven by a 44.2-percent drop in natural gas prices; petroleum prices edged down 0.1 percent. The decline in natural gas prices followed a 138.8-percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2018. Fuel prices decreased by 14.4 percent over the past year. A 14.5-percent drop in petroleum prices and a 20.0-percent decline in prices for natural gas each contributed to the overall decrease in fuel prices from January 2018 to January 2019.

All Imports Excluding FuelThe price index for nonfuel imports fell 0.2 percent in January. The January decrease was led by falling prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; consumer goods; automotive vehicles; and foods, feeds, and beverages which more than offset higher prices for capital goods. Import prices excluding fuel also declined 0.2 percent over the past year.

Exports Month-Over-Month and Year-Over-Year

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Exports: Prices for U.S. exports decreased 0.6 percent in January, after falling 0.6 percent in December and 0.8 percent in November. Export prices have only recorded one monthly advance since June. In January, both nonagricultural prices and agricultural prices contributed to the decline. The price index for overall exports decreased 0.2 percent for the year ended in January, the first 12-month decline since the index fell 0.2 percent in November 2016.

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