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Trade Roundup: Exporting Costs Up in U.S., Asia More Important to Germans, China Still with Big Surplus

As energy costs continue to run at a high level on investment runs and geopolitical concerns, the cost for U.S. businesses to conduct trade continues to rise.

March U.S. export prices rose at the highest rate in 11 months, 0.8%, and at a level double the pace of the February increase. Import prices also experienced a sizable uptick, 1.3%. That is also the largest monthly increase since April 2011, when import prices spiked by 2.6%.

The story, not so surprisingly, revolves around fuel prices. More than 60% of the trade cost increases stemmed directly from fuel import prices, which rose by 3.8% for March. And the United States is far from unique in experiencing production and shipping price increases tied to energy cost surges: imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico to the U.S. increased by 1.2%, 0.9% and 1.1%, respectively.

News of export pricing increases is not shocking, though analysts widely expected the rate to be less than, by as much as half, the 0.8% noted in the statistics.

Meanwhile, in Germany, a trade official said Wednesday that imports likely will outpace exports in 2012 in the nation, an oddity for the production titan. Granted, Germany continues to run at a large surplus, nearly 160 billion euros. Acknowledging the reality of the European Union's deep financial problems, especially among its southern members, BGA President Anton Boerner declared that the EU was "losing importance" as far as export destinations go. Filling the void, noted Boerner, were buyers in fast-emerging Asian markets.

In China, market-watchers were surprised by this week's news of a near $5.4 million (USD) trade surplus on surging exports in March. Chinese officials pinned the increase to renewed appetite from U.S.-based buyers at a rate that is higher than expected at this point of the recovery. China, amid growing concern over lower domestic demand, drew wary eyes by running a $31.5 billion deficit just one month ago.

Brian Shappell, CBA, NACM staff writer