US: Import and Export Prices

Fri Feb 13 07:30:00 CST 2015

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Import Prices - M/M change -3.0% -4.5% to -1.6% -2.8% -2.5% -1.9%
Export Prices - M/M change -0.8% -1.5% to 0.0% -2.0% -1.2% -1.0%
Import Prices - Y/Y change -8.0% -5.5%
Export Prices - Y/Y change -5.4% -3.2%

Deflation is a rising risk for the economic outlook based on import and export price data where contraction is at its most severe since the 2008-2009 recession. Import prices fell 2.8 percent in January alone for year-on-year contraction of 8.0 percent. And it's much more than just the impact of the strong dollar as export prices are also in contraction, at minus 2.0 percent for the month and minus 5.4 percent on the year.

The contraction is centered in petroleum where import prices fell a monthly 17.7 percent for year-on-year contraction of 40.1 percent. Excluding petroleum, import prices are still down sharply, at minus 0.7 percent for the month, which is the sharpest drop for this core reading since March 2009, and minus 1.2 percent for the year.

Turning to details on export prices, agricultural prices fell 1.2 percent for a year-on-year minus 6.3 percent. Excluding agriculture, export prices are down 2.1 percent, which is the largest drop since November 2008, and down 5.3 percent on the year.

The deflationary pull from inputs is now visibly pulling down prices of finished products. Showing an unusual sweep of steep monthly declines are import prices for capital goods (minus 0.4 percent), motor vehicles (minus 0.5 percent), and consumer goods (minus 0.3 percent). Year-on-year, all are also in contraction. The export side is less severe but does tell a similar story with consumer goods showing the most contraction, at minus 0.8 percent for the month and minus 1.4 percent for the year.

Fed policy makers are hoping that deflationary effects, tied mostly to oil prices, will prove limited, but there's no evidence right now that prices are pulling higher, on the contrary, price contraction is accelerating. Today's reports point to deflationary readings for the coming producer and consumer price reports.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Import prices fell a very steep 2.5 percent in December following a downwardly revised contraction of 1.8 percent in November and declines of 1.4 percent and 0.8 percent in the prior 2 months. Year-on-year, import prices are down 5.5 percent. The contraction in oil prices is of course the central factor behind the deflation with petroleum prices down 16.6 percent in December alone for a year-on-year decline of 30.1 percent. But excluding petroleum, import prices were no better than flat, up 0.1 percent in December and unchanged year-on-year. Export prices, where petroleum is less of a factor, were also down. Export prices fell 1.2 percent in the month for a year-on-year decline of 3.2 percent. Agricultural prices are key on the export side and were down 0.7 percent on the month and down 4.9 percent on the year.

Import price indexes are compiled for the prices of goods that are bought in the United States but produced abroad and export price indexes are developed for the prices of goods sold abroad but produced domestically. These prices indicate inflationary trends in internationally traded products.

Changes in import and export prices are a valuable gauge of inflation here and abroad. Furthermore, the data can directly impact the financial markets such as bonds and the dollar. The bond market is especially sensitive to the risk of importing inflation because it erodes the value of the principal (the original investment) which is paid back when the bond matures. It also decreases the value of the steady stream of interest rate payments on this type of security. Inflation leads to higher interest rates and that's bad news for stocks, as well. By monitoring inflation gauges such as import prices, investors can keep an eye on this menace to their portfolios.