WASHINGTON — The U.S. Labor Department said December import prices fell 0.1% for a decline of 1.5% over the year and export prices also fell 0.1% for a 1.1% gain over the year.

Falling fuel and nonfuel prices both contributed to the import price decline. Fuel prices were down 0.1% as oil fell 0.8%. Natural gas was up 18.4% in its largest gain since November 2009 in a partial offset.

Nonfuel import prices were off 0.1%. Industrial supplies, foods, and capital goods declined, and auto import prices were flat.

Import prices from China were unchanged in December but declined 0.7% in 2012. Import prices from the E.U., Mexico, and Japan fell during the month; prices from Canada rose 0.3%, led by natural gas.

These data show little price pressure overall in the trade sector, a good result that will help hold down domestic prices.

The only disturbing element is a 2.7% Q4 rise in non-petroleum industrial supplies, the largest three-month gain since May 2011. This means that parts and inputs could be rising in price at a clip that exceeds general inflation, squeezing profit margins.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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