March 15, 2018
U.S. import prices rose 0.4% in February, following an increase of 0.8% in January, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Export prices rose at and even slower pace, inching up 0.2 percent in February, following a 0.8-percent advance the previous month.
February’s 0.4% increase in the import price index marked the seventh consecutive monthly increase. The last time the index declined on a monthly basis was a 0.2% drop in July 2017. Import prices advanced 3.5% for the 12-month period ended in February, matching the 12-month rise in November. Those were the largest annual increases since the index rose 3.6% for the 12-month period ended April 2017.
The monthly increase in import price was partially off-set by a decline of 0.6% in February, the first monthly decline since July. However, between July 2017 and January 2018 the index for fuel imports rose 29.1%. Both petroleum and natural gas prices contributed to the decline in overall fuel prices in February. Petroleum prices fell 0.5% and prices for natural gas decreased 3.0%.
For the past 12 calendar month, the price index for fuel imports rose 17.4% over the past 12 months. Petroleum prices increased 18.3% for the year ended in February and prices for natural gas advanced 17.9% over the same period.
When fuel is excluded from the import price index, imports advanced 0.5% in February, after rising 0.5% the previous month. Prices for capital goods; consumer goods; nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; foods, feeds, and beverages; and automotive vehicles all contributed to the February advance. The price index for nonfuel imports increased 2.1% over the past 12 months, the largest year-over-year rise since the index advanced 2.4% for the year ended February 2012. The primary contributor to the 12-month advance in February was higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials.
According to the Bureau, “The last time the [export price] index declined on a monthly basis was a 0.1% decrease in June 2017. In February, higher prices for both non-agricultural and agricultural exports contributed to the increase in overall export prices.” For the calendar year, U.S. exports increased 3.3% over the past 12 months.
Rising meat prices were the primary contributor to the advance in agricultural prices for the year ended in February. Consequently, price index for agricultural exports rose 0.6% in February, after ticking up 0.1% the previous month. The February advance was the largest increase since the index rose 2.0% in October and was driven by higher prices for corn and soybeans, which increased 7.2% and 2.5%, respectively. Prices for agricultural exports rose 0.8% over the past year.
Price for non-agricultural export also increased in February. Non-agricultural export index advanced 0.2% in February following a 0.8% rise in January. The price indexes for non-agricultural industrial supplies and materials, consumer goods, capital goods, and automotive vehicles all contributed to the monthly increase. For the last 12 month, non-agricultural exports increased 3.6%, the largest 12-month rises since a 4.0% advance for the year ended December 2011.
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