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U.S. import prices slump

Staff Writer |
Reflecting a continued nosedive in fuel prices, the Labor Department released a report on Wednesday showing another significant decrease in U.S. import prices in the month of December.

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The Labor Department said import prices fell by 1.0 percent in December after tumbling by a revised 1.9 percent in November.

Economists had expected import prices to decline by 1.3 percent compared to the 1.6 percent slump originally reported for the previous month.

The steep drop in import prices came as prices for fuel imports plunged by 9.2 in December after plummeting by 13.3 percent in November.

The Labor Department said petroleum prices dove by 11.6 percent, more than offsetting a 30.3 percent spike in natural gas prices.

Excluding fuel prices, import prices came in unchanged in December after falling by 0.3 percent in the previous month.

Higher prices for consumer goods, automotive vehicles, and foods, feeds, and beverages offset decreases in prices for capital goods and non-fuel industrial supplies and materials.

The report said export prices also fell by 0.6 percent in December after sliding by a revised 0.8 percent in November. The drop in export prices matched economist estimates.

The continued decrease came as prices for non-agricultural exports slumped by 1.1 percent in December after falling by 1.0 percent in November.

Lower prices for non-agricultural industrial supplies and materials led the decline, more than offsetting rising consumer goods and automotive vehicles prices.

On the other hand, the Labor Department said prices for agricultural exports surged up by 3.9 percent in December after jumping by 1.7 percent in November.

Higher prices for soybeans and nuts contributed to the biggest increase in prices for agricultural exports since August of 2012.

The Labor Department said import prices in December were down by 0.6 percent compared to the same month a year ago, reflecting the first calendar-year drop since 2015.

Meanwhile, the report said export prices climbed by 1.1 percent in 2018 despite the downturn seen in the last two months of the year.

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