Import and Export Prices Rise in September

October 13, 2016 by Jon C. Ogg

Thursday’s economic reports already featured weekly jobless claims, but we also got a look at September’s import and export prices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that import prices were up 0.1% and export prices were up 0.3%.

Bloomberg was calling for a rise of 0.1% in both imports and exports. Dow Jones called for a rise of 0.2% in import prices. Perhaps the good news is that the prior monthly readings were −0.2% on imports and −0.8% for exports.

Thursday’s rise in import prices for September was led by higher fuel prices.

While the monthly readings sound positive for Fed watchers and the quest for a 2.0% inflation rate, the reality is that the year over year readings look worse rather than better. Compared with September of 2015, import prices were down 1.1% and export prices were down 1.5%.

Prior to August, import prices had risen in each of the previous five months. That gain was 3.1% between February and July. Imports have trended the other way, and the 1.1% annualized drop was actually the smallest drop on a year over year basis since the index fell 0.3% in August 2014.

The BLS also addressed the All Imports on an ex-fuel basis. It said:

The price index for nonfuel imports recorded no change in September, after edging down 0.1 percent the previous month. In September, higher prices for capital goods; foods, feeds, and beverages; and automotive vehicles offset lower nonfuel industrial supplies and materials prices. Nonfuel prices declined 0.7 percent over the past year, driven by lower prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials, and each of the major finished goods categories.

Several other issues were noted in the BLS report:

  • Prices for imports from China recorded no change in September, after declining 0.2 percent in August.
  • Nonfuel industrial supplies and materials prices declined 0.6 percent following a 0.3-percent advance the previous month.
  • Finished goods prices were mostly up in September. Automotive vehicles prices advanced 0.2 percent. Capital goods prices also rose, increasing 0.1 percent, the first monthly advance since the index ticked up 0.1 percent in June 2014. The price index for consumer goods recorded no change in September.
  • Prices for import foods, feeds, and beverages advanced 0.6 percent in September, after declining 0.9 percent in August.
  • Import air passenger fares rose 4.2 percent in September, after falling 6.0 percent in August and 3.9 percent in July. The September upturn was driven by a 10.0-percent advance in European fares.