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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Improve Modestly
by Tom Moeller  April 12, 2021

• Lumber prices strengthen with the housing market.

• Metals prices are mixed.

The Industrial Materials Price Index, from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER), increased 0.9% during the four weeks ended April 9 pulling prices up 44.7% y/y.

Prices in the miscellaneous group rose 3.4% during the last four weeks. A 13.8% surge (293.3% y/y) in framing lumber prices accompanied strength in home building. Plywood prices have been unchanged since December 2019. Natural rubber prices declined moderately in the last four weeks.

Improvement in the metals group moderated as prices edged 0.9% higher during the last month. The gain was led by a 3.6% rise in aluminum prices. The price of steel scrap rose 2.3% and zinc prices increased 1.6% (43.4% y/y). Weakening by 0.9% were copper scrap prices while lead prices fell 0.7% during the last four weeks (+16.6% y/y).

Prices in the crude oil & benzene group eased 0.2% during the last four weeks. An 8.3% drop in crude oil prices to $59.83 per barrel led the decline. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 1.5% in the last four weeks. Offsetting this decline, prices of the petro-chemical benzene rose 16.9% during the last month and have increased 249.9% over the last year.

In the textile group, prices weakened 1.3% during the last month as cotton prices fell 8.9%. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening, improved 1.4% in the last four weeks (26.3% y/y).

Support for commodity prices should continue. Forecasts from the National Association for Business Economics call for a 5.5% rise in industrial output this year, followed by a 3.8% 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 0.9 7.0 22.5 44.7 13.5 1.1 -12.0
  Excluding Crude Oil 1.5 6.2 20.9 40.5 16.0 -0.6 -11.1
 Textiles -1.3 1.1 5.0 10.0 3.9 -1.6 -2.8
  Cotton (cents per pound) -8.9 -0.5 22.1 56.0 11.6 -6.6 -9.2
 Metals 0.9 7.1 33.4 60.1 20.4 -4.3 -12.2
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 3.6 10.8 28.0 55.7 13.1 -6.5 -12.7
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) -0.9 12.0 36.7 79.9 26.9 3.5 -16.1
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) 2.3 -2.0 61.1 89.4 43.6 -0.8 2.3
 Crude Oil & Benzene -0.2 15.4 39.5 74.9 -9.7 20.2 -20.0
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) -8.3 20.8 51.9 132.3 -21.4 35.5 -24.4
 Miscellaneous 3.4 7.9 21.1 50.9 29.1 -0.0 -14.8
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 13.8 27.0 56.1 293.3 113.5 22.6 -23.1
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) -4.9 2.2 13.7 60.8 48.6 10.7 -4.1
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