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The Importance of Commodity Prices in Understanding U.S. Import Prices and Inflation

Thomas Klitgaard and Patrick Russo

No 20151118, Liberty Street Economics from Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Abstract: The dollar rose sharply against both the euro and yen in 2014 and 2015 and non-oil import prices subsequently fell. An explanation for this relationship is that a stronger dollar reduces the dollar-denominated cost of producing something in Germany or Japan, giving firms room to lower their dollar prices in order to gain sales against their U.S. competitors. A breakdown by type of good, however, shows that import prices for autos, consumer goods, and capital goods tend not to move much with changes in the dollar as foreign firms choose to keep the prices of their goods stable in the U.S. market. Instead, the connection between import prices and the dollar largely reflects the tendency for commodity prices to fall in dollar terms when the dollar strengthens. As a consequence, the dampening effect of a stronger dollar on U.S. inflation is transmitted much more through falling commodity prices than through cheaper imported cars and consumer goods.

Keywords: inflation; import; prices; dollar; commodity; prices; industrial; supplies (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E2 F00 E5 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015-11-18
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac
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