U.S. import prices rise 0.2%

A ship loaded with shipping containers prepares to leave at the Port of Miami on December 10, 2010 in Miami, Fla.

JEREMY HOBSON: Now let's get to trade. The government said this morning the prices of the things we import from other countries edged up two-tenths of a percent in May. And the prices of the things we export rose by the same amount. Analysts say this supports the view of some economists including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that inflation is so far not a big problem.

Chris Low is chief economist with FTN Financial. He's with us live from New York as he is every Friday. Good morning.

CHRIS LOW: Good morning.

HOBSON: Well, Chris first of all, a lot of people are going to hear "inflation isn't a problem" and they're going to say, "Uh tell that to my food and gas bill." Why is there such a difference between the official numbers and what we're actually paying for staple items?

LOW: And thanks by the way for making me part of the truth squad this morning. Look, you know, only a two-tenths increase in April which is the smallest increase in eight months, but therein lies the problem. Import prices are up 12.5 percent in the last year. I don't think anyone would argue that that's not inflation.

HOBSON: Well, a lot of people when we talk about imports and exports -- and specifically exports -- they look and say, you know what, the U.S. has a weak dollar right now. That could be a good thing for our exports as we try to use our cheap currency as a selling point for our exports to other countries. Is that working do you think?

LOW: Well, look, it definitely is a good thing for exports. The problem is when you're in a consumer society which the U.S. certainly is, a weak currency is a double-edged sword. And we see it in inflation. We also did benefit from better exports. We had in fact better-than-expected traded numbers reported just yesterday for April.

HOBSON: Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial, thanks so much.

LOW: You're welcome.

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