Coming off of a month of modest import and export price gains, December 2011 import prices fell by 0.1 percent while export prices fell by half of a percent. The declines were largely a result of falling fuel prices. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December saw fuel prices drop by 0.5 percent, following a 3.7 percent increase during the previous month. Petroleum prices fell by 0.4 percent and natural gas plummeted 4.9 percent, contributing to the overall decline for December.
Excluding fuel imports, the price index for December rose 0.1 percent over November, largely due to rising prices in the major finished goods divisions. Otherwise, nonfuel import within the categories of industrial supplies and materials, foods, feeds, and beverages prices decreased only slightly. Overall, prices for both consumer and capital goods advanced by 0.2 percent, automotives rose by 0.1 percent, foods, feeds, and beverages fell by 0.4 percent, and nonfuel industrial supplies and materials fell 0.1 percent.
For the year, overall imports increased by 8.5 percent, making 2011 the third year in a row that import prices grew. Fuel imports jump 25.2 percent for the year thanks to a 27.4 percent increase in petroleum prices, counteracting a 9.4 percent decline in the import price for natural gas. Nonfuel imports rose 3.4 percent over the year, continuing the upward trend from 2010.
Overall exports prices experienced a 0.5 percent fall in December, reflecting declining prices in both agricultural and nonagricultural exports. For the year, overall export prices experienced a 3.6 percent growth. Agricultural export prices dipped 2.6 percent for the month propelled by sinking prices of corn (down 8.2 percent), soybeans (down 4 percent), and wheat (down 7.8 percent). Prices still managed to rise 0.8 percent over 2010 despite sharp declines during the fourth quarter of December. Nonagricultural export prices declined 0.2 percent for the month driven by falling prices for nonagricultural supplies and materials. Over the year, nonagricultural export prices jumped by 4 percent.