U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes summary

February 19, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in one of its latest release reported an increase in both US import and export indexes. U.S. import prices increased 1.0% in January, albeit at a slower pace than the December 0.2%. Prices of export increased a 0.8% in January versus a 0.1% in December.


Higher prices for both nonfuel imports and fuel imports contributed to the January advance experienced in imports. Import prices advanced 3.6 % for the calendar year  2017 (Jan-Dec).

According to the Bureau: “ Fuel prices increased 4.7% in January following a 2.9% advance in December and a 9.8% rise in November. Higher prices for petroleum and natural gas contributed to the increases in all 3 months. Prices for petroleum advanced 4.3% in January, after rising 2.3% the previous month and 9.5% in November. The price index for natural gas increased 20.7% in January following advances of 20.0%in December and 25.7 % in November. Prices for fuel imports rose 19.7% over the past 12 months. Petroleum prices increased 20.9% for the year ended in January and prices for natural gas advanced 16.2% over the same period.”

Non-fuel imports advance 0.4% in January. This after a marginal decline of 0.1% in December 2017. The January increase was the largest monthly advance since the index rose 0.4% in March 2012. The last time the index increased more than 0.4% was a 0.8% rise in April 2011. Prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; automotive vehicles; foods, feeds, and beverages; and capital goods all contributed to the January advance. For the calendar 2017 year nonfuel imports increased 1.9%. The calendar year advance was primarily driven by rising prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials.


The 0.8% increase in export prices has been the highest since the index advanced 1.1% in May 2016.The recent month increase was due mainly to non-agricultural products as agricultural produce prices declined for the month.

As reported by the Bureau: “Prices for agricultural exports edged down 0.1% in January, after falling 0.3% the previous month. The January drop was driven by a 5.8-% decline in soybean and other oilseeds prices. Despite the recent decreases, prices for agricultural exports rose 1.4% over the past year. Rising meat prices were the primary contributor to the advance in agricultural prices for the year ended in January.”

The Bureau further reported that, “Non-agricultural export prices advanced 0.9% in January following a 0.1-% rise in December. The price indexes for non-agricultural industrial supplies and materials; capital goods; automotive vehicles; and consumer goods all rose in January. Prices for non-agricultural export indexes advanced 3.7 % from January 2017 to January 2018, the largest 12-month increase since a 4.0% rise for the year ended December 2011.”

The price index for export increased 3.4% over the last 12 months.

Imports by Locality

Prices for imports from Japan increased 0.6% in January, after recording no change the previous month. In January, import prices from China recorded no change for the second consecutive month. The price index for imports from China rose 0.2% for the year ended in January, the first 12-month advance since the index increased 0.1% in October 2014 and the largest since the index advanced 0.3% in July 2014 Higher fuel prices led the January increase for import prices from Canada, up 2.5%, and Mexico, up 0.7%. Prices for imports from the European Union also rose increasing 0.5%.