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U.S. import-price index rises more than expected in December

The Labor Department reported on Tuesday the import-price index, measuring the cost of goods ranging from Canadian oil to Chinese electronics, rose 0.9 percent m-o-m in December, following a revised 0.2 percent m-o-m gain in November (originally a 0.1 percent m-o-m uptick). This was the largest monthly advance since August. Economists had expected prices to increase 0.7 percent m-o-m last month.

According to the report, the December gain was driven by higher prices for both fuel (+7.8 percent m-o-m) and nonfuel (+0.4 percent m-o-m) imports.

Over the 12-month period ended in December, import prices fell 0.3 percent, due to a tumble in import fuel prices (-19.5 percent), which was partially offset by an increase in import nonfuel prices (+1.9 percent).

Meanwhile, the price index for U.S. exports climbed 1.1 percent m-o-m in December, following a revised 0.7 percent m-o-m gain in the previous month (a 0.6 percent m-o-m advance). This was the largest one-month increase since a 1.8-percent rise in June. The December rise was driven by higher prices for both agricultural exports (+0.6 percent m-o-m) and nonagricultural exports (+1.3 percent m-o-m).

Over the past 12 months, the price index for exports rose 0.2 percent, reflecting a surge in prices of agricultural exports (+5.1 percent; the largest gain since June 2017), which more than offset a decline in nonagricultural export prices (-0.2 percent). That was the first 12-month advance since January.

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