US: Import and Export Prices

Fri Oct 09 07:30:00 CDT 2015

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Import Prices - M/M change -0.4% -0.9% to 0.4% -0.1% -1.8% -1.6%
Export Prices - M/M change -0.2% -0.5% to 0.0% -0.7% -1.4%
Import Prices - Y/Y change -10.7% -11.4%
Export Prices - Y/Y change -7.4% -7.0%

A bounce back for petroleum prices helped to limit import-price contraction in September, coming in at only minus 0.1 percent. But contraction in export prices, where agriculture and not petroleum is the wild card, was very heavy, at minus 0.7 percent in the month. Year-on-year rates are very weak, still in the double-digits for imports at minus 10.7 percent and at minus 7.4 percent for exports.

A striking detail on the import side is slightly deepening year-on-year contraction in various core readings, still in the low to mid single digits with non-petroleum down 3.3 percent. This is the largest decline since October 2009 and points to fundamental price weakness for imports, in part a function of the strong currency which is giving U.S. buyers more for their dollars. Prices for petroleum imports rose 1.1 percent in the month, a welcome positive for the Fed's efforts to raise inflation but still a fraction of the giant 11.8 and 6.6 percent declines of the prior two months.

On the export side, prices of agricultural goods fell 1.1 percent and are down a stiff 13.5 percent year-on-year in news that is not welcome in the farm sector. Non-agricultural export prices fell 0.6 percent in the month with the year-on-year rate also speaking to fundamental price weakness, at minus 6.7 percent in what is record weakness.

But the price bounce for petroleum is a reminder that the great price drag from this year's oil rout may have run its course, especially given this month's early strength in oil prices. Still, this is a weak report that underscores the strong dollar's negative-price effects on imports.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Import & export prices have been signaling deepening rates of cross-border price contraction. The declines have swept nearly all readings in this report through much of the year. Easing declines, but declines nevertheless, are forecast for September.

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.