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Export prices rose slightly in December, import prices were stable

1 year, 3 months ago Lauren Larson, MEDILL Reports

Cautious optimism was expressed about the export numbers

From Lauren Larson, MEDILL Reports:

U.S. import prices remained flat in December, while export prices rose slightly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.

Overall import prices for fuel declined 0.6 percent in October and 0.9 percent in November. But prices did not fall in December due to a 0.4 percent increase in the fuel import price, which includes petroleum and natural gas.

Imported petroleum prices did drop slightly in December, but that slide was neutralized by a large increase in imported natural gas prices, which is not uncommon in colder months.

Meanwhile, export prices rose 0.4 percent in December due, in part, to a 4.5 percent increase in soybean prices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics did note in its release that wheat and vegetable export prices were down slightly in December.

Joel Naroff, president and founder of Holland, Penn.-based Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., expressed cautious optimism about the export numbers. “Overall, if you’re looking at the non-food, non-fuel prices, the export prices have stabilized, ” he said.

Naroff added, “The agricultural numbers are crazy these days.”

Naroff pointed out that dramatic fluctuation in agriculture exports is common, and the 0.4 percent hike in agricultural exports follows several months of uncertainty. Agricultural exports slid 1.3 percent in October and 0.2 percent in November.

On Sunday, Gov. Pat Quinn congratulated Illinois soybean farms for producing the largest soybean crop in the nation.

December’s higher overall export prices are still down 1.0 percent decrease from December 2012, in part because agriculture prices have experienced a 6.3 percent drop since then.

Barring chaos in the agricultural sector, Naroff said he does not foresee any sweeping changes in import and export prices in coming months. “I don’t think we’ll see a lot of increases outside of petroleum-based industry,” Naroff said, “but who knows?”

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