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Computer Exporters Still Slipping

Export prices for computer equipment and office machines continued to fall in January.
Ed ZwirnFebruary 15, 2001

Continuing a trend that has plagued manufacturers of computer hardware for years, export prices for computer equipment and office machines continued to fall in January.

Overseas buyers paid 3.7 percent less for U.S. computer hardware in January than they did one year ago, with the price tags for those items dropping 0.1 percent in January alone, according to U.S. Import and Export Price Index report released this morning by the Department of Labor.

The decline runs counter to the overall 0.2 percent gain recorded for the export price index during January.

Over a longer term, exports of computers and office machines in January fetched only 67.5 percent of the price they received in 1995, making for the steepest decline of any major export product category over that timeframe, according to the DOL report.

In comparison to other manufacturing sectors, the short-term decline in the export prices of computers and office machines was exceeded only by the 5.4 percent drop seen for iron and steel during January and the 5.0 percent drop seen in the same category versus January 2000.

But iron and steel has faced a less persistent decline over the years, still fetching 91.2 percent in January of what it did in 1995.

On the import side, the overall import price index dropped by 0.4 percent in January, led by a drop in energy costs.

But while the U.S. economy as a whole was undoubtedly buoyed by the 5 percent overall decline in energy costs shown in the report, this varies greatly when you get down to specifics.

Petroleum and petroleum-related products continued to decline precipitously from the levels they attained late last year, with the prices of these imports falling 3.7 percent in January. But these prices were still 4.7 percent higher than they were in January 2000, and still perch at 152.9 percent of the 1995 level.

Imported natural and manufactured gas, on the other hand, continued to rise in price in January, albeit at a slower rate than the prior month. These prices rose 5.1 percent during the month, versus 29.8 percent in December.

The cost of natural gas, up 129 percent over January 2000, is more than three times what it had been in 1995 (an index level of 338.4, with 1995 equaling 100). Click here for complete report.