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Import prices hit highest level in 25 months

Import prices rose for the fifth consecutive month in January to reach the highest level in 25 months, putting upward pressure on consumer prices, data from the central bank showed Tuesday.

The import price index climbed 2.1 percent from the previous month to 84.91 in terms of local currency, the Bank of Korea said Tuesday.

The import price index has been moving upward since September, with January’s figure marking the highest since December 2014 at 83.14. 

The increase was led by hikes in fuel prices and the stronger US dollar, an official from the central bank said.

The Dubai crude oil price, a gauge used to measure prices of oil imports from the Middle East, rose 3.1 percent on average from December to reach $53.71 per barrel. Oil imports from the Middle East take up 80 percent of South Korea’s total crude oil imports.

Costs of raw materials including crude oil have also gone up 3.4 percent from December, due to a recovery in the global raw materials market.

Prices for intermediary goods advanced 2.2 percent on-month, led by price hikes in petroleum and chemical products. Prices for coal and petroleum products soared 7.1 percent on-month, while those for chemical products increased 3.8 percent.

The US dollar strengthened 0.2 percent in January from the previous month.

Import prices jumped 13.2 percent on-year, the biggest rise since a 14.5 percent surge in October 2011, according to data.

The increase in import prices may further push up consumer prices this year, the bank said. Consumer prices have been on an upward trend in recent months. In January, the consumer price index gained 2 percent from a year earlier, at a faster pace than the previous month’s 1.3 percent rise, according to Statistics Korea.

Amid an upturn in oil and raw material prices, local companies have said they might raise their product prices, according to separate data from the central bank last week.

Meanwhile, exports prices in won rose 1.1 percent from a month ago due to the stronger dollar and an increase in the prices of electronics. The increase in the export prices of petroleum and chemical products offset the decrease in the export prices of textile products, data showed.

On a yearly basis, export prices jumped 7.4 percent in January, compared to a 6.6 percent increase in December. 

By Park Ga-young (