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U.S. import prices rise 0.5% in October; U.S. export prices remain unchanged

The price index for U.S. imports rose 0.5 percent in October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, following increases for each of the previous two months. Higher fuel and nonfuel prices each contributed to the October advance. U.S. export prices were unchanged in October after increasing 0.8 percent in September.

Imports

All Imports: U.S. import prices rose for the third consecutive month in October, increasing 0.5 percent after a 1.1 percent advance in September and a 1.2 percent rise in August. This upturn was largely driven by higher fuel prices, although nonfuel prices also increased in October and September. Led by the recent advances, overall import prices ticked up 0.4 percent for the year ended in October, which was the first 12-month rise in import prices since April.

Fuel Imports: Fuel prices increased 1.2 percent in October following advances of 4.5 percent in September and 6.1 percent in August. Prior to August, fuel prices had trended down overall in 2012. The recent increases helped drive the price index for import fuel up 1.0 percent over the past 12 months. Both the October increase in fuel prices and the advance over the past year were led by higher petroleum prices, which rose 1.3 percent for the month and 1.9 percent for the year ended in October. A 4.9 percent increase in natural gas prices also contributed to the October advance in fuel prices. Despite the October rise, natural gas prices fell 20.5 percent for the October 2011-12 period.

All Imports Excluding Fuel: The price index for nonfuel imports advanced 0.3 percent in October following a 0.2 percent rise the previous month. Those were the first monthly increases for the index since April, and each of the major finished goods categories contributed to the rise in October. Nonfuel import prices also rose over the past 12 months, ticking up 0.1 percent. Rising prices for finished goods over the year more than offset lower prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials and foods, feeds, and beverages.

Exports

All Exports: Export prices recorded no change in October as rising nonagricultural prices were offset by a downturn in prices for agricultural exports. The price index for overall exports had risen in each of the previous three months, advancing 2.1 percent overall for the third quarter of 2012. Prices for overall exports increased 1.4 percent over the past year, the first 12-month advance for the index since April.

Agricultural Exports: Agricultural export prices declined 1.9 percent in October, led by a 10.4 percent drop in soybeans prices. The October drop in agricultural prices followed increases of 1.2 percent, 4.7 percent, and 6.0 percent in the three previous months and the index advanced 11.6 percent for the year ended in October. 12-month advances of 37.1 percent for soybeans prices, 26.0 percent for corn prices, and 20.2 percent for wheat prices all contributed to the year-over-year rise in agricultural prices.

All Exports Excluding Agriculture: The price index for nonagricultural exports increased a relatively modest 0.2 percent in October after a 0.7 percent advance the previous month that was driven by a 4.5 percent rise in fuel prices. In contrast, fuel prices in October declined 0.8 percent. Prices for nonagricultural exports advanced 0.2 percent over the past year.

Selected October highlights

Import Prices

Imports by Locality of Origin: Import prices from China fell 0.3 percent in October, the largest monthly drop for the index since a 0.4 percent decline in April. The October decrease followed a 0.2 percent decline in September and for the second consecutive month was driven by lower prices for computer and electronic products, down 0.4 percent in October after declining 0.6 percent the previous month. Prices for imports from China decreased 0.4 percent over the past year, the first 12-month decline for the index since August 2010. In contrast, import prices from the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and Japan all rose in October.

Import prices from the European Union increased 0.6 percent in October, paralleling a recent rise in the Euro relative to the U.S. dollar. Prices for imports from Canada rose 0.5 percent in October, while import prices from Mexico advanced 0.4 percent. The price index for imports from Japan increased 0.3 percent, the largest rise since the index advanced a similar 0.3 percent in August 2011.

Nonfuel Industrial Supplies and Materials: Nonfuel industrial supplies and materials prices rose 1.1 percent in October following a 0.2 percent decline the previous month, led by a 4.4 percent advance in unfinished metals prices.

Finished Goods: Prices for each of the major finished goods indexes advanced in October. Consumer goods prices rose 0.2 percent, led by a 0.7 percent increase for medicinal, dental, and pharmaceutical prices. The price index for automotive vehicles advanced 0.3 percent driven by a 0.6 percent increase in prices for passenger cars. Prices for capital goods also rose in October, ticking up 0.1 percent.

Foods, Feeds, and Beverages: Foods, feeds, and beverages prices advanced 0.2 percent in October after rising 1.7 percent in September. Despite the recent increases, prices for foods, feeds, and beverages fell 0.8 percent over the past 12 months.

Transportation Services: Import air passenger fares rose 2.0 percent in October following declines in each of the previous three months. The October advance was led by a 3.7 percent increase in European fares. Overall, import air passenger fares advanced 3.1 percent between October 2011 and October 2012. The price index for import air freight increased 1.3 percent in October, while decreasing 2.7 percent over the past year.

Export Prices

Nonagricultural Industrial Supplies and Materials: The price index for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials increased 0.5 percent in October following a 1.8 percent advance the previous month. The October increase was led by a 5.4 percent rise in nonferrous metals prices.

Finished Goods: Finished goods prices were flat overall in October. Capital goods prices and prices for consumer goods each ticked up 0.1 percent, while the price index for automotive vehicles edged down 0.1 percent.

Transportation Services: Export air passenger fares fell 2.2 percent in October after decreasing 12.4 percent in September. Those declines drove the index down 2.5 percent over the past year. Prices for export air freight advanced 1.6 percent in October and 2.7 percent over the past 12 months.