WASHINGTON D.C. (
) -- The U.S. Import Price Index was unchanged in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday morning, marking the first time that import prices had not increased in five months. Export prices were up 0.6%, a pace slightly behind last month's 0.9% increase in export prices.
A decline in fuel prices offset rising nonfuel prices.
On an annual basis, import prices increased 8.6% in 2009; while U.S. export prices rose 3.4% for the full year.
The annual increase in import prices marked a big rebound, from a 10.1% decline in 2008, the largest calendar-year drop since the index was first published in 1982. Fuel prices were the primary contributor to both the 2008 decline and the 2009 rebound in prices.
The U.S. exports advance of 3.4% in 2009 was a smaller rebound from a decline of 2.9% in 2008.
Fuel prices fell for the first time in three months, a 1.4% decline in December, after advancing 2.9% in October and 7.1% in November. The 2% drop in petroleum prices more than offset a 6.9% increase in natural gas prices.
However, for the full year of 2009, there was a massive spike of 61.4% in 2009, following a 47% decline the previous year. Petroleum prices rose 78.4% for the year, while natural gas prices fell 28.4%.
While fuel was back on the declining trend in December, nonfuel import prices increased 0.4% , the fifth consecutive monthly rise, spanning across nonfuel industrial supplies and materials, food, capital goods and automotive vehicles.
Agricultural prices rose 2% in December, half the level of November's rise, but led by a huge spike in wheat prices, of 95%. The 2009 trend for agricultural exports was mixed -- the index increased 9.6%, after falling 10.9% in 2008. The 2008 drop was the largest calendar-year decline in agricultural prices since the index began in 1985. Higher prices for soybeans and corn drove the increase in overall export prices in 2009.
-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.
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