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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Improve Slightly
by Tom Moeller  December 13, 2021

• Lumber prices strengthen.

• Oil prices fall.

• Metals prices ease.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) edged 0.4% higher during the four weeks ended December 10.

The miscellaneous price index strengthened 7.3% during the last four weeks as framing lumber prices surged 48.7%. Natural rubber prices also were strong and posted a 4.4% four-week rise.

Offsetting this strength, crude oil & benzene prices declined 6.4% in the last four weeks. The cost of crude oil weakened 14.2% to $70.42 per barrel. Prices were up modestly last week from a low of $67.98 in the first week of December. The price of the petro-chemical benzene fell 4.5% (+26.4% y/y). Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 1.3% in the last four weeks.

Prices in the metals group fell 1.6% in the last four weeks reflecting a 5.6% drop in steel scrap prices and a 2.9% decline in copper scrap prices. A 2.6% rise in the cost of aluminum offset these declines while zinc prices improved 0.4% (19.1% y/y).

Prices in the textile group fell 1.5% during the last four weeks. Cotton prices declined 9.3% over that period. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening edged 0.7% higher (28.3% y/y in the last four weeks.

Industrial commodity prices may move onto a firmer footing. The National Association for Business Economics calls for a 4.0% rise in industrial output in 2022 following a 5.5% increase in 2021.

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 0.4 4.8 1.7 19.1 13.5 1.1 -12.0
  Excluding Crude Oil 1.3 4.9 1.8 17.2 16.0 -0.6 -11.1
 Textiles -1.5 2.6 4.6 9.7 3.9 -1.6 -2.8
  Cotton (cents per pound) -9.3 13.4 26.8 51.7 11.6 -6.6 -9.2
 Metals -1.6 3.6 4.4 29.6 20.4 -4.3 -12.2
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 2.6 -5.2 7.6 30.5 13.1 -6.5 -12.7
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) -2.9 2.5 -2.9 24.4 26.9 3.5 -16.1
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) -5.6 4.1 -8.1 17.5 43.6 -0.8 2.3
 Crude Oil & Benzene -6.4 0.6 0.9 22.7 -9.7 20.2 -20.0
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) -14.2 2.5 1.1 52.8 -21.4 35.5 -24.4
 Miscellaneous 7.3 9.6 -2.6 16.0 29.1 -0.0 -14.8
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 48.7 57.7 -19.6 31.7 113.5 22.6 -23.1
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 4.4 9.5 -10.7 -17.3 48.6 10.7 -4.1
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