Import prices in the U.S. showed a steep drop in the month of March, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Tuesday, while export prices also fell sharply.
The Labor Department said import prices plunged by 2.3 percent in March after falling by a revised 0.7 percent in February. The nosedive reflected the largest monthly drop in import prices since January of 2015.
Economists had expected import prices to tumble by 1.7 percent compared to the 0.5 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.
The bigger than expected decrease in import prices came as prices for fuel imports plummeted by 26.8 percent in March after sinking 9.0 percent in February. Prices for petroleum and natural gas both showed substantial decreases.
Excluding the steep drop in fuel prices, prices for non-fuel imports were unchanged in March after rising by 0.3 percent in February.
Lower prices for consumer goods and foods, feeds, and beverages offset higher prices for automotive vehicles, non-fuel industrial supplies and materials, and capital goods.
The report said export prices also tumbled by 1.6 percent in March following a 1.1 percent slump in February. Export prices had been expected to show a 1.9 percent nosedive.
The decrease in export prices, the biggest monthly drop since January of 2015, reflected lower prices for both agricultural and non-agricultural exports.
Prices for agricultural exports plunged by 1.4 percent amid lower prices for other animal feeds, vegetables, nuts, cotton, and wheat, which more than offset higher prices for fruit, soybeans, and meat.
Lower prices for non-agricultural industrial supplies and materials, consumer goods, and non-agricultural foods also contributed to a 1.5 percent slump in prices for non-agricultural exports.
Compared to the same month a year ago, import prices in March were down by 4.1 percent, while export prices were down by 3.6 percent.
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