Boosted by farm prices, export prices are extending their trend higher while momentum for import prices, due to March's dip in oil, has slowed. Export prices rose an as-expected 0.2 percent in March with the year-on-year rate extending its climb, to plus 3.6 percent for the 4th straight positive reading after 2-1/2 years of contraction. Agricultural prices jumped 0.9 percent in the month for a strong year-on-year gain of 5.3 percent.
Import prices, hit by a 3.6 percent pull back for petroleum, fell an as-expected 0.2 percent with this annual rate slipping 6 tenths to plus 4.2 percent. Prices of consumer imports, which are an important component of total consumer inflation, fell 0.2 percent though readings in the prior two months were unusually strong, at upwardly revised gains of 0.3 percent in February and 0.4 percent in January. Year-on-year, however, prices of consumer imports remain in the negative column at minus 0.2 percent.
By country, import prices from Canada fell 1.3 percent in the month but were up 12.9 percent on the year, reflecting the monthly downswing in petroleum prices but their still strong yearly gain. Import prices with China rose 0.2 percent but, reflecting mostly weak prices for consumer goods, were down 1.2 percent on the year. Import prices with the EU rose 0.1 percent in the month and 1.0 percent on the year with Japan at a monthly plus 0.2 percent and plus 1.4 percent on the year.
March slowing aside, this is the 5th straight plus-side yearly reading for import prices. And the February and January gains for consumer imports do point to prior traction for consumer prices while the strength in export prices is also a plus. And the ongoing swing higher for oil back over $50 per barrel points to a reversal higher for import prices in the April report. Today's results will keep in place expectations for soft headlines but intrend core readings in tomorrow's producer price report and Friday's consumer price report.