US import prices post second straight monthly decline in November

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. import prices fell for a second straight month in November amid decreases in the costs of energy products and motor vehicles, suggesting that import deflation could help to lower domestic inflation next year.

Import prices dropped 0.4% last month, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Thursday. Data for October was revised to show prices declining 0.6% instead of 0.8% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices, which exclude tariffs, falling 0.8%.

In the 12 months through November, import prices decreased 1.4% after dropping 1.8% in October. Annual import prices have now dropped for 10 consecutive months.

Data this week showed consumer prices rising moderately in November and producer prices unchanged. Though inflation remains above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, price increases are becoming less broad-based.

The U.S. central bank held rates steady on Wednesday and signaled in new economic projections that the historic tightening of monetary policy engineered over the last two years is at an end and lower borrowing costs are coming in 2024.

Since March 2022, the Fed has raised its policy rate by 525 basis points to the current 5.25%-5.50% range. Financial markets are leaning towards a rate cut as soon as May, according to CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.

Imported fuel prices decreased 5.6%, extending October’s 3.7% decline. The cost of imported food rebounded 0.9% after falling 0.5% in the prior month.

Excluding fuels and food, import prices edged up 0.1% after dipping 0.1% in October. These so-called core import prices decreased 0.6% year-on-year in October.

Prices for imported capital goods were unchanged after slipping 0.1% in the prior month. The cost of motor vehicles, parts and engines fell 0.1% after rising 0.3% in October.

Consumer goods, excluding automotives were unchanged following a 0.1% drop in the prior month. Higher borrowing costs are cooling domestic demand.

Prices of goods imported from China fell 0.1% after being unchanged in October. They dropped 2.9% year-on-year in November.

The report also showed export prices declined 0.9% in November, matching October’s drop. Export prices for agricultural commodities rose 0.2%, lifted by fruit and soybeans. But prices for corn, meat and other foods and food preparations fell.

Nonagricultural export prices decreased 1.0%. Export prices declined 5.2% year-on-year in November after sliding 4.7% in October.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Rici)