Import Prices

Prices for U.S. imports declined 0.3 percent in May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, the first monthly decline since a 1.4-percent drop in December. Import prices advanced 1.8 percent from December to April before the downturn in May. The price index for overall imports decreased 1.5 percent over the past 12 months, matching the drop in January. These were the largest over-the-year declines since the index fell 2.2 percent in August 2016.

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Fuel Imports: Import fuel prices declined 1.0 percent in May, after rising 25.4 percent over the previous 4 months. Lower prices for both petroleum and natural gas contributed to the May decline. Petroleum prices fell 0.9 percent in May, after a 4.7-percent advance in April. The May decrease was the first monthly decline since a 15.3-percent drop in December. Natural gas prices fell 6.8 percent in May following a 51.1- percent decline the previous month. Overall fuel prices decreased 1.1 percent over the past year. The decline was driven by a 1.9-percent drop in petroleum prices which more than offset a 2.5-percent rise in natural gas prices.

All Imports Excluding Fuel: Prices for nonfuel imports fell 0.3 percent in May following a 0.1-percent decline in April and a 0.2-percent decrease in March. Lower prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; foods, feeds, and beverages; capital goods; and automotive vehicles all contributed to the May decrease in nonfuel prices. The price index for nonfuel imports declined 1.4 percent between May 2018 and May 2019.

Export Prices

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Prices for U.S. exports declined 0.2 percent in May, the first monthly drop since the index fell 0.6 percent in January. Lower prices for both agricultural and nonagricultural exports contributed to the May decline. Export prices decreased 0.7 percent over the past 12 months, the largest over-the-year decline since the index fell 1.1 percent in October 2016.

Agricultural Exports: The price index for agricultural exports declined 1.0 percent in May, after decreasing 1.5 percent the previous month. In May, lower prices for soybeans, wheat, and fruit more than offset higher prices for meat and vegetables. Agricultural export prices fell 5.3 percent over the past year, the largest 12-month drop since the index declined 9.1 percent in April 2016. A 20.6-percent decrease in soybeans prices for the year ended in May led the overall decline in agricultural prices. The drop in soybeans prices more than offset higher vegetable prices over the past 12 months.

All Exports Excluding Agriculture: Nonagricultural export prices decreased 0.2 percent in May following a 0.2-percent increase the previous month. In May, falling prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials; consumer goods; nonagricultural foods; and automotive vehicles more than offset rising prices for capital goods. The price index for nonagricultural exports also declined 0.2 percent for the year ended in May. Lower prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials drove the overall decrease. In contrast, prices for each of the major finished goods categories rose over the past 12 months.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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