US: Import and Export Prices

Thu Mar 15 07:30:00 CDT 2018

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Import Prices - M/M change 0.3% -0.1% to 0.4% 0.4% 1.0% 0.8%
Export Prices - M/M change 0.3% 0.1% to 0.5% 0.2% 0.8%
Import Prices - Y/Y change 3.5% 3.6% 3.4%
Export Prices - Y/Y change 3.3% 3.4%

Import prices, inflated by the yearlong decline in the dollar, continue to offer what may prove to be an early and, from the Federal Reserve's perspective, a welcome indication of price pressures. Import prices rose 0.4 percent in February which hits Econoday's high estimate and the gain comes despite a 0.5 percent decline in prices of petroleum imports. Excluding petroleum, import prices rose 0.5 percent for a second straight month which is very hot for this reading.

Prices of finished imports are showing increasing lift with capital goods up 0.6 percent in the month and consumer goods also showing pressure, up 0.5 percent. Industrial supplies have also been climbing including related durables which rose 0.9 percent in a reading that includes imported primary metals.

Export prices rose a monthly 0.2 percent and got a boost from agricultural prices which rose 0.6 percent. Traction for selling prices is less noticeable than on the import side, led in February by a 0.3 percent gain for consumer goods which, however, is small category for U.S. business.

February price data were uniformly soft before today's import data, which though not showing an alarming increase do nevertheless support the Fed's view that rising imported inflation should help prices move to their 2 percent inflation target over the course of the year.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Import prices, boosted by increases in vehicles and food, showed pressure in the January report even when excluding petroleum. Moderation is the call for February with import prices expected to rise a moderate 0.3 percent with export prices also seen at an increase of 0.3 percent.

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 compiled 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.