The Economy

Import Prices Drop 0.3% After Two Straight Gains

The decline in the cost of imported goods in November was the biggest since February and followed a 0.4% gain the previous month.
Matthew HellerDecember 14, 2016
Import Prices Drop 0.3% After Two Straight Gains

U.S. import prices recorded their biggest decline in nine months in November, primarily due to lower fuel costs, though non-fuel import prices dropped for a second consecutive month.

The Labor Department said import prices fell 0.3% last month after two straight months of increases. The October gain was revised downward to 0.4%.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that import prices would fall 0.4% in November. “Global deflation remains a powerful force,” Steven Ricchiuto, chief U.S. economist for Mizuho Securities, said in a note.

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Imported petroleum prices dropped 4.7% last month, also the largest decline since February, after increasing 7.3 percent in October. That offset a 10.6% jump in imported natural gas prices.

Import prices excluding petroleum were unchanged after dipping 0.1% in the prior month.

Over the 12 months through November, import prices dipped 0.1%, the smallest decrease since July 2014, after slipping 0.3% in the 12 months through October. “A year earlier, import prices were declining at a double-digit rate in percentage terms, the offshoot of a big drop in petroleum costs,” MarketWatch noted.

The recent surge in the dollar in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory could “ keep imported inflation subdued,” Reuters reported, but “with oil prices hovering around $50 per barrel and wages expected to accelerate as the labor market nears full employment, some of the dollar’s drag on price pressures could be mitigated, allowing inflation to rise toward [the Federal Reserve’s 2%] target.”

Export prices fell 0.1% in November after rising 0.2% in October. On a year-to-year basis, export prices were down 0.3%, the smallest decline since August 2014.