WASHINGTON (June 12, 2012) — U.S. import prices decreased 1.0 percent in May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, after no change the previous month. Lower fuel and non-fuel prices each contributed to the May decrease in overall import prices. U.S. export prices also declined in May, falling 0.4 percent after a 0.4 percent increase in April.
All imports: The price index for overall imports fell 1.0 percent in May, the largest one-month drop since the index declined 1.2 percent in June 2010. Prices for U.S. imports also decreased over the past 12 months, falling 0.3 percent, the first year-over-year decline for the index since import prices fell 5.6 percent between October 2008 and October 2009. The decrease over the May 2011-12 period was led by lower fuel prices, which more than offset an increase in non-fuel prices.
Fuel imports: Fuel prices fell 4.2 percent in May, the largest monthly drop for the index since a 5.1 percent decrease in May 2010. The price index for import fuels declined 3.9 percent over the past year after rising 43.7 percent for the year ended May 2011. The decline over the past year was the largest 12-month drop in fuel prices since the index fell 14.2 percent for the October 2008-09 period. Decreasing petroleum and natural gas prices each factored into the declines in overall fuel prices in May and over the past 12 months. Petroleum prices fell 4.2 percent for the month and 2.0 percent for the year ended in May, while prices for natural gas decreased 4.8 percent and 49.6 percent, respectively, over the same periods.
All imports excluding fuel: Prices for non-fuel imports edged down 0.1 percent in May, the first monthly decline since the index fell 0.2 percent in November 2011. The May decrease followed increases of 0.2 percent in April and 0.5 percent in March. Lower prices for foods, feeds, and beverages; consumer goods; and automotive vehicles more than offset a 0.1 percent advance in non-fuel industrial supplies and materials prices. Despite the May decline, the price index for non-fuel imports rose 1.0 percent over the past year.
All exports: Export prices fell 0.4 percent in May after increasing 2.0 percent over the first four months of 2012. The May decline was driven by lower prices for nonagricultural exports, which more than offset increasing agricultural prices. Overall export prices edged down 0.1 percent between May 2011 and May 2012, the first 12-month drop in the index since a 3.6 percent decrease for the year ended October 2009. The 12-month decline was led by lower agricultural prices.
Agricultural exports: Led by a 5.1 percent rise in soybean prices, the index for agricultural exports rose 0.7 percent in May following a 2.0 percent increase the previous month. Despite the recent advances, agricultural prices fell 1.3 percent over the past 12 months. Lower prices for cotton, wheat, and corn over the past year all contributed to the decline.
All exports excluding agriculture: The price index for nonagricultural exports fell 0.5 percent in May, the first monthly decline since a 0.2 percent decrease in December 2011 and the largest since a 1.4 percent drop in October 2011. In May, falling nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials prices more than offset higher finished goods prices. Overall nonagricultural prices ticked up 0.1 percent over the past year.
Selected May highlights
Non-fuel industrial supplies and materials: Non-fuel industrial supplies and materials prices edged up 0.1 percent in May after rising 0.5 percent in April. An 8.0 percent rise in fertilizer prices was the largest contributor to the May advance.
Finished goods: Prices for import finished goods recorded little movement in May, with the price indexes for consumer goods and automotive vehicles each edging down 0.1 percent and capital goods prices remaining unchanged.
Foods, feeds and beverages: Foods, feeds, and beverages prices decreased 0.7 percent in May after ticking up 0.1 percent the previous month. The May decline was led by a 4.1 percent drop in fruit prices and a 2.5 percent decrease in the price index for fish and shellfish. In contrast, vegetable prices advanced 3.2 percent in May.
Imports by locality of origin: The price indexes for imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union decreased in May, falling 1.3 percent, 0.7 percent, and 0.1 percent, respectively. Each index was driven by lower fuel prices. In contrast, import prices from Japan rose 0.2 percent in May and increased by 1.1 percent over the past year. Prices for imports from China were unchanged in May after declining 0.3 percent in April and recording no change in March. Despite falling over the past three months, import prices from China increased 1.7 percent for the year ended in May.
Transportation services: The index for import air passenger fares advanced 0.6 percent in May, led by a 6.1 percent increase in Asian fares. Import air passenger fares rose 5.1 percent over the past year, driven by a 10.2 percent jump in Asian fares. European fares ticked up 0.2 percent over the May 2011-12 period, while Latin American/Caribbean fares advanced 0.8 percent. Import air freight prices rose 0.3 percent in May, but fell 4.1 percent over the past 12 months.
Non-agricultural industrial supplies and materials: Prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials fell 1.7 percent in May following a 0.5 percent increase the previous month. The May decline was led by a 4.6 percent drop in fuel prices, although a 0.8 percent decrease in chemical prices and a 1.5 percent decline in prices for nonferrous metals also contributed to the overall decrease.
Finished goods: Finished goods prices were mixed in May. Prices for consumer goods rose 0.7 percent and automotive vehicles prices ticked up 0.1 percent. The price index for capital goods was unchanged as a 0.3 percent drop in computers, peripherals, and semiconductor prices offset a 0.2 percent increase in prices for capital goods excluding computers.
Transportation services: Export air passenger fares increased 3.2 percent in May, driven by a 6.6 percent increase in Asian fares. Export air passenger fares rose 4.9 percent over the past year. Export air freight prices advanced 0.2 percent in May and 1.7 percent over the past 12 months.