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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Rise Further
by Tom Moeller  January 20, 2020

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) increased 1.2% during the four weeks ended Friday and 3.8% over the last three months. The price index increased 1.1% y/y.

Prices in the Miscellaneous grouping increased 1.5% during the last four weeks but were little changed versus last year. In the Metals group, prices rose 1.7% over the last four weeks but fell 1.6% y/y. Zinc prices rose 4.0% in the last four weeks but fell 3.7% y/y. The price of lead gained 2.6% during the last four weeks (-0.8% y/y). Copper scrap prices increased 1.1% in last month and aluminum prices rose 0.9% m/m. The cost of steel scrap improved 0.6% in four weeks. Prices in the Textile grouping improved 1.3% in four weeks but fell 0.9% y/y. Cotton prices rose 6.3% m/m while burlap prices improved 3.5% in four weeks (-3.1% y/y). Working lower were prices in the Crude Oil & Benzene group which eased 0.6% during the last four weeks as WTI crude oil prices declined to $58.40 per barrel on Friday. Moving the other way, prices of the petro-chemical benzene rose 3.8% in the last four weeks (44.8% y/y).

The recent improvement in industrial commodity prices accompanied a 0.2% rise (-1.3% y/y) in U.S. factory output during December. It followed a 1.0% increase. The consensus forecast from the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) calls for a modest 0.9% rise in factory sector output this year. During the last ten years, there has been a 71% correlation between the y/y change in industrial commodity prices and the y/y change in factory sector output.

Commodity price data can be found in Haver's DAILY, WEEKLY, USECON and CMDTY databases. The NABE forecast is in the SURVEYS database.

FIBER Industrial Materials Price Index (%) 1-Mth 3-Mth 6-Mth 12-Mth 2019 2018 2017
All Items 1.2 3.8 0.5 1.1 1.1 -12.0 6.7
 Textiles 1.3 2.2 2.4 -0.9 -1.6 -2.8 3.0
  Cotton (cents per pound) 6.3 8.3 17.8 -3.5 -6.6 -9.2 9.8
 Metals 1.7 4.4 -0.8 -1.6 -4.3 -12.2 18.6
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 0.9 3.8 -2.2 -1.8 -6.5 -12.7 26.0
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) 1.1 8.6 4.5 5.4 3.5 -16.1 29.3
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) 0.6 24.7 0.2 5.4 -0.8 2.3 16.8
 Crude Oil & Benzene -0.6 4.9 0.2 12.3 20.2 -20.0 8.1
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) -3.6 9.1 1.1 12.6 35.5 -24.4 10.9
 Miscellaneous 1.5 3.9 0.1 0.1 -0.0 -14.8 -0.5
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 0.0 7.5 11.1 22.6 22.6 -23.1 20.0
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 1.1 13.2 -6.1 4.4 10.7 -4.1 -29.6
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