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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Weaken
by Tom Moeller  November 19, 2021

• Metals prices lead latest downturn.

• Textiles prices rise.

• Price gains remain pronounced year-to-year.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) fell 1.6% during the four weeks ended November 19. Product declines were widespread.

Prices in the metals group fell 5.9% in the last four weeks reflecting a 15.1% decline in the cost of aluminum. Zinc prices also weakened 12.1% (+21.4% y/y). Copper scrap prices declined 6.8% over the last four weeks but steel scrap prices improved 2.6%.

Crude oil & benzene prices declined 1.1% in the last four weeks. The cost of crude oil weakened 3.6% over four weeks to $79.76 per barrel. Partially offsetting this decline was a 1.1% rise (59.1% y/y) in the price of the petro-chemical benzene. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices fell 1.5% in the last four weeks.

Prices in the textile group improved 1.4% during the last four weeks. Cotton prices surged 8.2%. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening rose 1.6% in four weeks (29.0% y/y).

The miscellaneous price index eased 0.5% during the last four weeks as framing lumber prices declined 4.9%. A 1.4% rise in natural rubber prices offset some of this decline while plywood prices continued to trend sideways.

Industrial commodity prices appear set to reverse their recent declines. The National Association for Business Economics continues to call for a 5.7% rise in industrial output this year, followed by a 4.2% gain in 2022.

The Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) develops economic measurement techniques as applied to business cycles and inflation in the U.S. and other market economies. The commodity price data can be found in Haver's DAILY, WEEKLY, USECON and CMDTY databases.

FIBER Industrial Materials Price Index (%) 4-Week 3-Month 6-Month 12-Month 2020 2019 2018
All Items -1.6 5.7 -0.3 25.2 13.5 1.1 -12.0
  Excluding Crude Oil -1.5 4.8 -1.5 21.9 16.0 -0.6 -11.1
 Textiles 1.4 4.2 7.0 11.9 3.9 -1.6 -2.8
  Cotton (cents per pound) 8.2 24.3 44.3 71.3 11.6 -6.6 -9.2
 Metals -5.9 4.3 5.4 42.5 20.4 -4.3 -12.2
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) -15.1 1.7 8.9 35.7 13.1 -6.5 -12.7
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) -6.8 5.0 -5.4 37.4 26.9 3.5 -16.1
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) 2.6 7.4 -1.5 55.2 43.6 -0.8 2.3
 Crude Oil & Benzene -1.1 6.9 2.5 40.1 -9.7 20.2 -20.0
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) -3.6 20.9 22.6 93.3 -21.4 35.5 -24.4
 Miscellaneous -0.5 7.3 -11.8 15.6 29.1 -0.0 -14.8
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) -4.9 44.5 -54.4 13.2 113.5 22.6 -23.1
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 1.4 0.7 -15.9 -16.5 48.6 10.7 -4.1
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