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First Cut: November Import Price Index shows little upward pressure for prices

The Import Price Index for November was up only 0.2% month-over-month, and was down 0.1% excluding fuels. Prices for imported fuels were up 2.6% in the month due to a mild increase in crude oil costs (up 2.0%) as well as a sharp increase for coals (up 38.2%) and natural gas (up 48.5%) at the start of the winter season when demand was greater than usual during a cold snap.

Import prices were down 1.3% compared to November 2018 and were down 1.4% excluding fuels. Fuel prices were up only 0.8% compared to last year with crude prices up 3.1%.

Prices for imported finished goods have barely budged for a long time.  November saw a month-over-month dip in prices for capital goods of 0.3%. Some of this is lack of demand for business equipment and some is fluctuations in the value of the dollar versus other currencies. Prices for autos and parts imports nudged up 0.1%. Imported consumer goods excluding auto prices were flat. Continuing weakness for import prices was reflected in the year-over-year decline of 1.8% for capital goods, 0.6% for autos and parts, and 0.4% for consumer goods excluding autos.

The report is consistent with the overall lack of upward price pressures for commodities as a whole that have helped keep inflation tame and resistant to the influence of easy monetary policy.

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