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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Continue to Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  March 14, 2022

• Steel scrap leads recent increases.

• Crude oil prices jump.

• Lumber prices remain strong.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) increased  6.5% during the four weeks ended March 11 and increased 20.9% 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 metals group rose 12.8% in the last four weeks, up 42.3% during the last year. The cost of steel scrap rose by roughly one-third in four weeks and by one-half y/y. Aluminum prices followed with a 14.7% four-week gain and have risen by nearly three-quarters y/y. Zinc prices improved 10.8% in the last four weeks and 47.2% y/y. Copper scrap prices increased 4.0% in four weeks and by 14.8% y/y.

Crude oil & benzene costs surged 13.1% in the last four weeks and by one-third y/y. Crude oil costs alone gained 28.0% in four weeks (77.3% y/y) as the cost of crude rose to $115.64 per barrel, up roughly three-quarters y/y. The price of the petro-chemical benzene improved 17.5% during the last four weeks and by 42.9% y/y. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 5.4% in the last four weeks and gained 18.1% in the last year.

Prices in the miscellaneous group increased by 4.5% during the last four weeks (10.2% y/y). Framing lumber prices improved 8.1% (27.3% y/y) and natural rubber prices increased 10.6% (-0.8% y/y).

In the textile group, prices eased 0.8% during the last four weeks but rose 7.5% y/y. Cotton prices fell 6.0% (+40.3% y/y) in four weeks. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening, improved 2.1% in the last four weeks and rose by 19.4% 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 6.5 11.7 17.1 20.9 18.3 13.5 1.1
  Excluding Crude Oil 5.4 9.2 14.5 18.1 16.3 16.0 -0.6
 Textiles -0.8 2.1 4.7 7.5 9.5 3.9 -1.6
  Cotton (cents per pound) -6.0 11.0 25.9 40.3 49.9 11.6 -6.6
 Metals 12.8 22.2 26.6 42.3 31.8 20.4 -4.3
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 14.7 40.2 32.9 70.6 41.3 13.1 -6.5
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) 4.0 7.8 10.5 14.8 23.2 26.9 3.5
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) 32.6 44.8 50.7 49.6 10.3 43.6 -0.8
 Crude Oil & Benzene 13.1 27.6 28.4 32.8 28.7 -9.7 20.2
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) 28.0 64.2 68.3 77.3 57.5 -21.4 35.5
 Miscellaneous 4.5 4.5 14.5 10.2 9.8 29.1 -0.0
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 8.1 30.8 106.3 27.3 27.4 113.5 22.6
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 10.6 17.4 28.5 -0.8 -11.7 48.6 10.7
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