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posted on 12 April 2016

Import and Export Price Year-over-Year Deflation Continues in March 2016.

Written by Steven Hansen

Trade prices continue to deflate year-over-year.

Import Oil prices were up 4.9 % month-over-month, and export agricultural prices declined 2.5 %.

  • with import prices down 0.3 % month-over-month, down 6.2 % year-over-year;
  • and export prices unchanged month-over-month, down 6.1 % year-over-year..
  • the markets were expecting (from Bloomberg):
Consensus Range Consensus Actual
Export Prices - M/M change 0.1 % to 2.0 % +1.0 % +0.0 %
Import Prices - M/M change -0.4 % to 0.4 % 0.0 % +0.2 %

There is only marginal correlation between economic activity, recessions and export / import prices. Prices can be rising or falling going into a recession or entering a period of expansion. Econintersect follows this data series to adjust economic activity for the effects of inflation where there are clear relationships.

Econintersect follows this series to adjust data for inflation.

Year-over-Year Change - Import Prices (blue line) and Export Prices (red line)

There are three cases of deflation outside of a recession - early 1990′s, late 1990′s, and mid 2000′s. Import price deflation is normally associated with strengthening of the dollar relative to other currencies.

According to the press release:

All Imports: The price index for U.S. imports rose 0.2 percent in March, the first monthly increase for the index since a 0.1-percent uptick in June 2015. The March advance was the largest 1-month rise since the index increased 1.1 percent in May 2015. Despite the upturn, overall import prices remained down over the past year, falling 6.2 percent from March 2015 to March 2016.

All Exports: U.S. export prices recorded no change in March. This is the first time that the index did not decline since a 0.5-percent rise in May 2015. Prior to March, export prices decreased 0.5 percent in February, 0.8 percent in January, and 1.1 percent in December. In March, agricultural prices declined and the price index for nonagricultural exports advanced. Overall prices for U.S. exports decreased 6.1 percent over the past year.

How moderate the price "increases" have been over the past year is obvious from the graphic below.

Month-over-Month Change - Import Prices (blue line) and Export Prices (red line)

The biggest mover of import and export prices are usually oil (imports) and agricultural products (exports).

Oil Import Price Change Month-over-Month (blue line) and Agriculture Export Change Month-over-Month (red line)

Export / Import prices are the first inflation numbers reported each month.

Caveats on the Use of the Export / Import Price Index

Both import and export prices index values shown in this post is a weighted average for the the entire category of exports or imports. The BLS has many sub-categories relating to a particular commodity or goods. Econintersect using spot checks believes these subindexes are accurate.

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