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First Cut: Import Price Index up for a third month in a row on petroleum prices

The March Import Price Index was up 0.6% on the heels of up 1.0% in February and up 0.1% in January. Import prices have been pushed higher in recent months by costs for petroleum.  Petroleum was up 4.7% in March, 9.7% in February and 7.5% in January. Excluding petroleum, the import price index was up 0.2% for both of the past two months.

There is little upward pressure on import prices outside of energy costs. The value of the broad currency index for goods suggests that import costs have moderated a bit from late 2018. There was a hint in two months of increases for unfinished metals for durable goods (up 1.1% in March and up 1.2% in February) that inputs for manufacturing could be seeing some tariff-related upward pressures.

Compared to a year-ago, the import price index was unchanged overall, and down 0.3% excluding petroleum. There is little sense that import costs will drive inflation higher unless there is another round of big increases in tariffs that add to costs and disrupt supply chains.

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