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First Cut: Import prices rise along with higher fuel costs in May, but excluding fuels are little changed

The May Import Price Index was up 1.0% compared to April, reversing three months of declines related to energy prices. Prices for fuels were up 21.7% in May, although this was a modest rebound considering the severity of the declines in the prior three months. Excluding fuels, import prices were only a scant 0.1% higher. The Import Price Index was down 6.0% compared to May 2019, while fuels were down 49.6%. Nonfuel imports were off 0.7% compared to a year ago.

There were few enough upward price pressures outside of fuels. However, prices for imported foods, feeds, and beverages were up 2.2%. This was in large part due to 13.7% increase in meats and a rise of 7.2% for vegetable products. Import prices excluding foods and fuels were down 0.1% month-over-month in May.

Prices for industrial supplies and materials were up 4.6% in May from April, but excluding fuels were down 0.8%.

Prices were essentially unchanged for finished imported goods. Capital goods prices were flat, autos and parts prices edged 0.1% lower, and prices for consumer goods excluding autos inched up a bare 0.1%.

Costs for import air freight services continued to skyrocket and were up 27.5% in May after up 39.9% in April, and were up 80.1% compared to a year ago in May. Costs for import air passenger fares edged down 0.1% in May after substantial declines in the prior two months. These were down 21.7% compared to May 2019. Travel by individuals – for business or pleasure – continued to keep a lid on ticket prices with an assist from a sharp decline in costs for jet fuel. However, demand for goods from abroad and the need to get essential items like personal protective gear quickly have helped drive up costs for imports via air freight.

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