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First Cut: February Import Price Index down on sharply lower fuels costs

The Import Price Index for February declined 0.5% from January mainly due to a 7.7% drop in prices of imported fuels. Excluding fuels, prices for imports were up 0.3%. Compared to a year ago, import prices were down 1.2% overall, down 0.7% excluding fuels, and imported fuel prices were 5.8% lower. Sources of upward price pressures from imported goods were small and scattered.

Prices for imported foods, feeds, and beverages were up 1.5% in February from January.

Imported industrial supplies and materials excluding fuels were up 1.1%. Fuels prices were down 7.6% for petroleum and products, down 10.8% for coals and coal gas, and declined 12.4% for natural gas. However, prices were up 1.8% for selected building materials and up 3.6% for unfinished metals related to durables. Some of this will be demand for residential construction at a time when supplies are limited.

Prices for imported finished goods were not much changed. Capital goods prices nudged up 0.1%, a negligible gain. Prices for imported autos, parts, and engines were flat, as were prices for consumer goods excluding autos.

Import prices for air freight services were down 1.3% in February from January, and lower for a second month in a row. Prices for air passenger services rose a slight 0.2% in February after falling 8.7% in January. Some of this will be due to declines in prices for jet fuel, but some is also related to competitive pressures activity has retreated with the spread of COVID-19 and movement of goods and people is restricted.

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