The Labor Department said U.S. import prices and export prices both rose by 0.6%, beating the consensus forecast for the second straight month. Import and export prices for the month of April were also revised higher to 0.6%, up from 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively.
Import prices increased 0.6% in May, continuing what has been an upward trend since August 2017. The monthly gain comes after a 0.6% rise the previous month and the price index for overall imports rose 4.3% for the year ended in May.
That’s the largest 12-month gain since the index rose 4.7% in February 2017.
The increase was driven in large part by higher fuel prices even though non-fuel import prices also increased.
Import fuel prices increased 4.9% in May after rising 4.1%in April. The month of May saw the largest monthly increase since the index rose 9.8% in November 2017. Fuel prices were led by a 5.9% increase in petroleum prices, which easily offset a 19.5% decline in natural gas prices.
Prices for import fuel have increased by a whopping 28.6% over the past 12 months, fueled by (pun intended) a 31.9% rise in petroleum prices. In contrast, natural gas prices fell 18.5% over the past year.
Non-fuel import prices rose 0.2% for the second consecutive month in May and have not posted a monthly decline since the index fell 0.2% in December 2017. The May advance was driven by higher prices for non-fuel industrial supplies and materials; consumer goods; and foods, feeds, and beverages. The price indexes for capital goods and automotive vehicles both fell in May.
Non-fuel prices advanced 1.9% over the past year, primarily led by higher prices for non-fuel industrial supplies and materials.
Gains in export prices were led by increases in both agricultural and nonagricultural exports. Export prices have not recorded a monthly decline since the index edged down 0.1% in June 2017. The price index for exports rose 4.9% between May 2017 and May 2018, the largest 12-month increase since the index rose 6.3% in October 2011.
The price index for agricultural exports rose 1.6% in May after a 1.2% drop the previous month. The May increase was driven by a 10.1% gain in wheat prices, a 4.4% gain in corn prices, and a 1.8% gain in soybean prices.
Prices for agricultural exports also rose over the past 12 months, a gain of 4.9%.
Nonagricultural export prices rose 0.5% in May and have not posted a monthly decline since the index fell 0.1% in October 2017. The increase was driven by higher prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials, although rising prices for capital goods and automotive vehicles also contributed to the May rise.
Prices for overall nonagricultural exports rose 4.9% for the year ended in May.