"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Import and Export Prices

So, what do we have here?  This is a report, prepared by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing the change in prices paid for imported goods and prices received for exported goods, on both a monthly and year-over-year basis[1].  It's not a huge market mover, but traders do like looking at it.  If nothing else, it can help gauge the direction that the US trade balance will move and the growth of GDP.
January saw a 1.2% monthly increase in export prices and a 1.5% monthly increase in import prices.  Year over year, we saw export prices increase 6.8% and import prices increase 5.3%.  The fact that export prices were rising faster than import prices implies a strengthening dollar, increasing exports, decreasing imports, or any combination thereof.  Regardless of which factor or set of factors are the cause, however, it indicates that GDP may be strengthening[2] and/or our trade deficit may be shrinking.
Anyway though, enough with the soapbox explanations.  Let's get to the data.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that, for February, import prices rose 1.4% for the month while exports rose 1.2% for the month.  This puts us at an overall 6.9% year-over-year increase in import costs, while export revenue increased 8.6%.  On the down side, fuel import costs increased 4.0% for the month (up from January's 3.5%), with a 18.6% year-over-year increase.
Still, what with Egypt and Libya (and Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, and so on and so forth), nobody is particularly surprised by that fuel import jump.
[1]  Yes, this is a case in which the name of the report really does tell you what to expect.
[2]  We have to produce our exports, after all.

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