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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Rise Broadly
by Tom Moeller  March 7, 2022

• Lumber costs lead recent increases.

• Crude oil prices continue to strengthen.

• Steel scrap & aluminum prices rise notably.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) strengthened 6.1% during the four weeks ended March 4 and increased 18.3% during the last year. The level of the price index remains at a record high for the series which dates back to January 1985.

Prices in the miscellaneous price group increased by 9.3% during the last four weeks (10.9% y/y). Framing lumber prices surged 30.5% (31.2% y/y) and natural rubber prices strengthened 15.3% (0.1% y/y).

Crude oil & benzene costs surged 8.4% in the last four weeks and 28.9% y/y. Crude oil costs alone gained 18.2% (70.9% y/y) as the cost of crude rose to $104.57 per barrel, up by nearly three-quarters y/y. The price of the petro-chemical benzene improved 10.1% during the last four weeks and rose 32.1% y/y. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 5.4% in the last four weeks and gained 15.7% in the last year.

Prices in the metals group strengthened 7.7% in the last four weeks, up by one-third during the last year. Aluminum costs jumped 14.8% in the recent four weeks and by nearly two-thirds during the last year. The cost of steel scrap rose 12.1% in four weeks and 18.8% y/y while zinc prices improved 4.2% in the last four weeks and 36.1% y/y. Copper scrap prices increased 4.0% in four weeks and by 11.3% y/y.

Prices in the textile group eased 0.5% during the last four weeks but rose 7.4% y/y. Cotton prices fell 4.2% (+39.2% y/y) in four weeks. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening, improved 1.7% in the last four weeks and rose by 19.0% y/y.

Industrial commodity prices should remain strong. The National Association for Business Economics expects a 4.1% rise in industrial output in 2022 and a 2.6% increase in 2023.

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 2021 2020 2019
All Items 6.1 9.6 15.0 18.3 18.3 13.5 1.1
  Excluding Crude Oil 5.4 7.4 13.1 15.7 16.3 16.0 -0.6
 Textiles -0.5 2.2 5.1 7.4 9.5 3.9 -1.6
  Cotton (cents per pound) -4.2 12.2 29.0 39.2 49.9 11.6 -6.6
 Metals 7.7 13.0 18.2 32.9 31.8 20.4 -4.3
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 14.8 33.3 31.3 61.7 41.3 13.1 -6.5
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) 4.0 5.2 8.0 11.3 23.2 26.9 3.5
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) 12.1 13.4 20.6 18.8 10.3 43.6 -0.8
 Crude Oil & Benzene 8.4 23.3 21.4 28.9 28.7 -9.7 20.2
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) 18.2 53.8 52.1 70.9 57.5 -21.4 35.5
 Miscellaneous 9.3 6.9 17.7 10.9 9.8 29.1 -0.0
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 30.5 55.0 152.1 31.2 27.4 113.5 22.6
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 15.3 14.9 24.2 0.1 -11.7 48.6 10.7
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