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posted on 14 September 2016

Import and Export Price Year-over-Year Deflation Moderated Again in August 2016.

Written by Steven Hansen

Import and export prices continue to deflate year-over-year - although the rate of deflation moderated this month.

Analyst Opinion of the Import / Export Price Situation

Both import and export price deflation is moderating when looking year-over-year. The month-over-month figures given in the headlines only confuse. At the current rate of moderation of deflation (trend line) - both imports and export prices should start inflating by the end of the year.

Import Oil prices were down 2.1 % month-over-month, and export agricultural prices down 3.4 %.

  • with import prices down 0.2 % month-over-month, down 2.2 % year-over-year;
  • and export prices down 0.8 % month-over-month, down 2.4 % year-over-year..
  • the markets were expecting (from Bloomberg):
Consensus Range Consensus Actual
Import Prices - M/M change -0.4 % to 0.2 % -0.1 % -0.2 %
Export Prices - M/M change -0.2 % to 0.1 % -0.1 % -0.8 %

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: Prices for U.S. imports fell 0.2 percent in August, the first monthly decrease since the index fell 0.5 percent in February. Over the 5 months previous to August, import prices advanced 3.1 percent. The August decline was led by falling fuel prices which decreased for the second consecutive month. The price index for U.S. imports decreased 2.2 percent for the year ended in August, after declining 11.4 percent over the previous 12-month period.

All Exports: U.S. export prices decreased 0.8 percent in August, the first monthly drop since the index edged down 0.1 percent in March and the largest decline since the index fell 0.9 percent in January. In August, lower prices for both agricultural and nonagricultural exports contributed to the overall drop in export prices. The price index for U.S. exports decreased 2.4 percent over the past year, the smallest 12- month decline since the index fell 1.7 percent in November 2014.

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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