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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Are Little Changed
by Tom Moeller  April 22, 2022

• Metal & textile costs rise further.

• Prices decline elsewhere.

• Lumber prices post another big decline.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) improved 0.1% during the four weeks ended April 22 and rose 14.7% over the last year.

Prices in the metals group increased 1.9% in the last four weeks, up 35.1% during the last year. The gain was led by a 13.2% increase (59.1% y/y) in the price of zinc which is used in batteries. Tin and lead prices also rose. These increases were offset by a 7.8% decline (+34.9% y/y) in aluminum prices. The price of steel scrap fell 1.6% (+47.3% y/y). Copper scrap prices eased 0.2% in four weeks but were up 9.4% y/y.

Textile group prices improved 0.8% (10.2% y/y) during the last four weeks, led by cotton prices which increased 6.2%, up by two-thirds y/y. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening, eased 1.5% in the last four weeks but rose 15.8% during the last year.

Offsetting the increases was a 1.9% decline (+17.4% y/y) in the crude oil & benzene group prices. Crude oil costs alone fell 5.6% in four weeks yet were up roughly two-thirds y/y. The per barrel price of crude oil of $105.06 was 9.1% below the $115.64 per barrel high in the second week of March. The price of the petro-chemical benzene rose 1.1% during the last four weeks, but was 16.6% lower y/y. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 0.5% during the last four week and gained 12.1% in the last year.

In the miscellaneous group, prices fell 1.1% during the last four weeks (+1.1% y/y). Framing lumber prices weakened 13.2% in four weeks and by 26.9% y/y. This decline was countered by a 5.8% increase (11.4% y/y) in natural rubber prices.

Industrial commodity prices should remain firm. 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 0.1 5.2 8.2 14.7 18.3 13.5 1.1
  Excluding Crude Oil 0.5 4.2 7.1 12.1 16.3 16.0 -0.6
 Textiles 0.8 2.5 4.8 10.2 9.5 3.9 -1.6
  Cotton (cents per pound) 6.2 14.5 29.2 67.0 49.9 11.6 -6.6
 Metals 1.9 12.2 10.3 35.1 31.8 20.4 -4.3
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) -7.8 7.6 4.4 39.4 41.3 13.1 -6.5
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) -0.2 4.9 -1.0 9.4 23.2 26.9 3.5
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) -1.6 34.9 31.9 47.3 10.3 43.6 -0.8
 Crude Oil & Benzene -1.9 10.6 14.4 17.4 28.7 -9.7 20.2
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) -5.6 22.4 27.0 68.4 57.5 -21.4 35.5
 Miscellaneous -1.1 -1.0 5.9 1.1 9.8 29.1 -0.0
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) -13.2 -24.4 33.8 -26.9 27.4 113.5 22.6
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) 5.8 21.4 26.3 11.4 -11.7 48.6 10.7
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