Higher fuel prices and nonfuel prices each contributed to an increase in the price index for U.S. imports in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Export prices also rose and have not recorded a monthly decline since last August. The last time import prices declined was last November.
U.S. import prices rose 4.1% for the year ended in April, continuing a trend of 12-month increases over 4%, the largest over-the-year advances for the index since February 2012. Petroleum prices saw a rise of 1.6% and natural gas 4% in April. Over the past year, the price index for import fuel has advanced nearly 43% in contrast to about a 32% decline for the previous 12-month period ending April 2016. Between April 2016 and April 2017, petroleum prices rose nearly 44% and natural gas 49%. Rising prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; automotive vehicles; foods, feeds and beverages; and consumer goods offset lower capital goods prices for the year, BLS said.
Higher prices for both agricultural and nonagricultural exports contributed to the overall increase in export prices. Over the past 12 months, U.S. export prices rose 3% following a decline of 5.1% for the year ending April 2016. Among agricultural exports, a nearly 38% jump in vegetable prices this April more than offset falling prices in soybeans, corn and wheat, reflecting the largest monthly advance since the index began in December 1996. The price index for nonagricultural exports increased almost 3% over the past 12 months. In April, higher prices for capital goods and automotive vehicles offset price drops for industrial supplies and materials.
Improved global demand has continued to benefit exporters, with a stable dollar allowing further export price increases, according to a recent Wells Fargo report. An increase in export prices in March reflected the strongest year-over-year rate since 2012, Wells Fargo said.
– Adam Fusco, associate editor