Answer: The U.S. Import and U.S. Export Price Indexes measure the change over time
in the prices of goods or services purchased from abroad by U.S. residents (imports) or
sold to foreign buyers by U.S. residents (exports). The Import/Export Price Indexes,
along with the Consumer Price Index and Producer Price Index, form the basis of three
major Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) programs measuring the change in the prices of
goods and services in the U.S. economy. Each of the three has been designated as a Principal
Federal Economic Indicator.
NOTE: Although import and export transaction prices are used to calculate the indexes, the International Price Program (IPP) does not publish price information or any information that might allow prices to be inferred.
Answer: The Import/Export Price Indexes are primarily used to deflate foreign trade statistics produced by the U.S. Government. The Import/Export Price Indexes are also a valuable input into the processes of measuring inflation, formulating fiscal and monetary policy, forecasting future prices, conducting elasticity studies, measuring U.S. industrial competitiveness, analyzing exchange rates, negotiating trade contracts, and analyzing import prices by locality of origin.
Answer: All goods except for military goods, works of art, used items, charity donations, railroad equipment, items leased for less than a year, rebuilt and repaired items, and selected exports (custom-made capital equipment). Covered services are air freight and air passenger fares.
Answer: Import and export price indexes for goods are published using the following classification systems:
Items are classified, respectively, by end use for the Bureau of Economic Analysis System, by industry
for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), and by product category for the Harmonized
System (HS). While classification by end use and product category are self-explanatory, a couple of notes are in order for classifying items by
industry. In the NAICS tables, for both imports and exports, items are classified by output industry, not
input industry. As an example, NAICS import index 326 (plastics and rubber products) would include outputs
such as manufactured plastic rather than inputs such as petroleum.
Import Price Indexes for manufactured and nonmanufactured goods are available by Locality of Origin for select regions. Quarterly data are available from December 1990 to June 1992 and monthly data from September 1992 on.
Import and export service price indexes are classified using the following definitions: Balance of Payments (BOP) represents transactions between U.S. and foreign residents and International represents transactions inbound to and outbound from the U.S.
Answer: The International Price Program (IPP) selects sample establishments
based upon their relative trade value in imports and exports during the course of a year.
After an establishment is selected for inclusion, a BLS field economist visits the establishment
to enlist cooperation and to select the exact items that will be priced on a monthly basis.
All information provided by the establishment is protected under BLS confidentiality rules.
Sample establishments are asked to provide prices on a monthly basis, as close as possible to the first day of the reference month. Most prices are collected by mailing pre-printed forms to establishment contacts, who fax them to the IPP when completed. In addition, some establishments submit prices via a secure internet address. IPP Industry Analysts collect the remaining prices by telephone or by fax.
Answer: The majority of prices used in calculating import price indexes are quoted FOB (Free On Board) Foreign Port and the majority of prices used in calculating export price indexes are quoted FAS (Free Along Ship) U.S. Port; duty is not included. While the International Price Program prefers exit point price bases, point of origin or entry point price bases are used if they are the industry standard.
Answer: The IPP attempts to hold the quality of items being priced constant so that
the pure price change can be isolated from changes in prices brought about by alterations to
the item. When an item price used in index calculation has a specification modification, the
IPP adjusts that item's price to reflect any change in the quality of the item.
This means that when a sample item has a modification to one of its features and that modification is reflected in its price, a "link" price is created in order to compare the item's price in the period with the modification to its price in the period before the modification. Creating an adjusted or link price is often referred to as a quality adjustment. A requirement for creating a link price is that the item must remain unchanged in its class, general function, or purpose; otherwise, the price series is restarted.
Examples where an item has had a change in one of its features but the nature of the item and the factors determining price remain the same are: (1) A woman's short-sleeved cotton blouse that is now long sleeved, (2) an uncoated aspirin that is now coated for easier swallowing, and (3) a car with only a driver's side airbag that now has driver's and passenger's side airbags. Link prices are also set for changes in unit of sale specification (e.g. change from price per item to price per dozen), for non-market discounts, and for changes in price basis (see question 5).
To calculate a valid link price, the amount of the price change (a positive or negative amount) associated with the new or different feature must be quantified. For example, a car that sold for $10,000 in September is sold for $11,000 in October. If $400 of the increase is due to an improved paint job, but the remaining $600 is the manufacturers annual market increase, then the link price is $10,600.
When a link price is set, the item's price series is continued. If information is not available to quantify a change in the item description, then a link price cannot be calculated and a replacement, if available, is required. With a replacement, the old item's price series ends and the new item's price series begins with a more accurate starting point.
Answer: The Import/Export Price Indexes are very sensitive to the changing composition of world trade. For this reason, the IPP reweights its published index aggregation structures for goods every year with a two year lag in the weights. This means that relative importance data in 2004 goods indexes are based on 2002 trade values while the relative importance data in 2005 indexes are based on 2003 trade values. The IPP also resamples each half of the import/export universe every other year. The aggregation structure below the published level incorporates the use of sampling weights in the estimator. Sampling weights generally change every two years when a new sample is drawn for a given product area.
Answer: The formula used to calculate the Import/Export Price Indexes is a modified
form of the Laspeyres index. A Laspeyres index uses fixed base period quantities to aggregate
prices. This means that the quality of goods and services is fixed; new goods do not appear,
and the prices of goods that disappear must be observable. Because these implications are not
consistent with the actual workings of the economy, adjustments must be made to the index.
NOTE: All Import/Export Price Index data are not seasonally adjusted.
For more information: BLS Handbook of Methods, Chapter 15, International Price Indexes (PDF).
Answer: An index is a tool that simplifies the measurement of movements in a
numerical series. Movements are measured with respect to the base period when the index is
set at 100. Currently, most Import/Export Price Indexes have an index base of 2000=100 and
price changes are measured in relation to that figure. For example, a November 2004 Import
Price index of 107.0 for beverages indicates that there has been a 7 percent increase in price
since 2000. Similarly, a November 2004 Import Price Index of 73.0 for computers means that
there has been a 27 percent decrease in price since 2000.
While movements between two dates can be expressed as index point changes, it is more useful to express the movements as percent changes. As the example below indicates, the Export Price Index for Food and Live Animals was 118.0 in November 2004 and 115.3 in November 2003, an index point increase of 2.7. Using the formula shown, it is determined that this index point increase represents a 2.3 percent price increase from November 2003 to November 2004.
|Index Point Change|
|Export Price Index 11/04||118.0|
|Less previous index 11/03||115.3|
|Equals index point change||2.7|
|Index Percent Change|
|Index point change||2.7|
|Divided by the previous index||115.3|
|Result multiplied by 100||0.023 x 100|
|Equals percent change||2.3|
Answer: The IPP publishes the Import/Export Price Indexes monthly. The information
is released at 8:30 AM Eastern Time, usually during the second week following the reference
month. Click on the link below to see the current list of release dates.
Import/Export Price Index Release Dates
The monthly release includes first-published data for the reference month, as well as revised data from the previous three months. For example, the November 2004 U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes, released on December 9, 2004, contains first-published data for November 2004, and previously published indexes for October, September, and August that were subject to revision. The December 2004 U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes, released on January 13, 2005, contained first-published data for December 2004 and previously published indexes for November, October, and September that were subject to revision.
Answer: Although import and export transaction prices are used to calculate the
Import/Export Price Indexes, the IPP does not publish price information. For this reason,
the Import/Export Price Indexes cannot be used to measure differences in price levels among
different products and services or among different localities of origin. A higher index number
for locality A (or product X) does not necessarily mean that prices are higher than for
locality B (or product Y) with a lower index number. It only means that prices have risen
faster for locality A (or product X) since the reference period.
Because the Import/Export Price Indexes are primarily used as deflators, care must be exercised when using these data for other purposes. For example, import price data exclude charges for duties.
Answer: About 5-10 percent of imports and exports currently surveyed are priced in foreign currencies. The IPP uses an exchange rate factor that is an average for the month prior to the pricing month.
Answer: A unit value index measures the change in the value of items regardless of
whether the items are homogeneous and, therefore, can be affected by changes in the mix of
items as well as changes in their prices. In contrast, a price index reflects an average of
the proportionate changes in the prices of a specified set of items.
A disadvantage of a unit value index is that it reflects changes in the product mix at the finest level of detail independent of price change. For instance, a unit value index would decrease in the case of a shift from luxury cars to economy cars within a product category, even when all the prices for each item remained constant. In addition, unit value indexes do not take into account changes in a products specification. For instance, adding passenger side air bags to a car would cause the unit value index to increase. A price index, however, controls for changes in product specifications and would not increase in this instance.
Because of the limitations mentioned, import and export unit value indexes are not interchangeable with import and export price indexes for deflating foreign trade and growth statistics.
Answer: The Department of State publishes a quarterly report containing indexes
of living costs abroad, quarters allowances, hardship differentials, and danger pay allowances.
This information is compiled by the Office of Allowances for use in establishing allowances
to compensate U.S. Government civilian employees for costs and hardships related to assignments
abroad. More information is available from the Department of State, (202) 663-1121.
Comparative price level and purchasing power parity information is available from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), (202) 785-6323.
The Center for International Comparisons at the University of Pennsylvania (CICUP), (215) 898-7624, compiles the Penn World Tables which provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 179 countries for some or all of the years 1950-2000.
Answer: For specific details about how to obtain additional information, please contact us.
Last Modified Date: October 7, 2015