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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Rise Slightly
by Tom Moeller  December 18, 2019

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) increased 0.9% during the four weeks ended Friday and 0.8% over the last three months. The price index was down a lessened 2.7% y/y.

Prices in the crude oil & benzene group rose 2.6% during the last four weeks as WTI crude oil prices improved to $59.10 per barrel. They have since risen further to $60.94 per barrel as of yesterday. Prices of the petro-chemical benzene also strengthened and rose 7.0% in four weeks (19.4% y/y). Prices in the miscellaneous group improved 1.9% over four weeks as the cost natural rubber gained 6.4%. The price of framing lumber rose 5.3% but the cost of plywood slipped 0.9% (-12.2% y/y). Prices in the metals grouping eased 0.7% over the last month as lead prices declined 8.6% (-3.7% y/y). The cost of steel scrap offset this decline with an 11.2% increase in four weeks, but zinc prices also weakened 11.0% (-16.8% y/y). The cost of aluminum declined 1.7% in four weeks but copper scrap prices rose 2.7%. Prices in the textile group improved 0.3% during the last month. Burlap prices paced the increase with a 3.0% gain (-5.1% y/y), but the cost of cotton eased 0.2%.

Commodity prices could remain weak over the short term. U.S. factory output growth is projected to slow and recessions abroad are continuing. The consensus forecast from the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) calls for a modest 0.9% rise in industrial production both this year and next. 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 2018 2017 2016
All Items 0.9 0.8 -1.2 -2.7 -12.0 6.7 19.2
 Textiles 0.3 1.6 -1.0 -3.8 -2.8 3.0 2.8
  Cotton (cents per pound) -0.2 9.6 0.5 -18.6 -9.2 9.8 10.2
 Metals -0.7 0.8 -4.0 -7.3 -12.2 18.6 32.9
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) -1.7 -1.1 0.6 -9.7 -12.7 26.0 13.0
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) 2.7 4.1 3.4 -2.3 -16.1 29.3 17.3
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) 11.2 16.8 -2.5 -2.8 2.3 16.8 74.5
 Crude Oil & Benzene 2.6 2.4 5.4 8.5 -20.0 8.1 20.4
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) 3.5 4.1 12.3 13.3 -24.4 10.9 44.3
 Miscellaneous 1.9 -0.7 -2.0 -2.7 -14.8 -0.5 21.7
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 5.3 10.9 24.1 16.5 -23.1 20.0 12.9
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 6.4 3.1 -18.5 14.0 -4.1 -29.6 89.4
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