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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Edge Higher
by Tom Moeller  April 19, 2021

• Lumber prices strengthen.

• Metals prices are mixed.

The Industrial Materials Price Index, from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER), increased 1.4% during the four weeks ended April 16, leaving prices up 45.1% y/y.

Prices in the miscellaneous group rose 3.0% during the last four weeks. Framing lumber prices rose 23.3% and continued to reflect strength in home building. Plywood prices have been unchanged since December 2019. Natural rubber prices declined 6.0% in the last four weeks.

Improvement in the metals group moderated as prices edged 0.4% higher during the last month. The gain was paced by a 4.7% rise in aluminum prices. Lead prices rose 1.9% during the last four weeks (17.0% y/y). The price of copper scrap eased 0.6% and steel scrap prices were off 0.4%. Zinc prices weakened 0.7% (46.4% y/y).

Prices in the crude oil & benzene group rose 3.3% during the last four weeks reflecting a 29.2% surge (252.4% y/y) in prices for the petro-chemical benzene. Crude oil prices declined 4.4% to $61.14 per barrel. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 1.7% in the last four weeks.

In the textile group, prices eased 0.6% during the last month as cotton prices fell 4.5%. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening, improved 1.6% in the last four weeks (27.1% y/y).

Industrial commodity prices could find near-term support. 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 1.4 7.2 22.2 45.1 13.5 1.1 -12.0j
  Excluding Crude Oil 1.7 6.7 20.6 39.3 16.0 -0.6 -11.1
 Textiles -0.6 1.6 5.3 10.9 3.9 -1.6 -2.8
  Cotton (cents per pound) -4.5 2.3 24.4 63.5 11.6 -6.6 -9.2
 Metals 0.4 6.8 29.9 57.1 20.4 -4.3 -12.2
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 4.7 13.1 24.9 57.2 13.1 -6.5 -12.7
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) -0.6 12.4 33.9 78.6 26.9 3.5 -16.1
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) -0.4 -7.9 52.7 75.6 43.6 -0.8 2.3
 Crude Oil & Benzene 3.3 15.8 41.8 88.4 -9.7 20.2 -20.0
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) -4.4 15.5 52.2 182.3 -21.4 35.5 -24.4
 Miscellaneous 3.0 8.4 21.9 48.3 29.1 -0.0 -14.8
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 23.3 45.3 94.9 285.5 113.5 22.6 -23.1
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) -6.0 0.4 8.4 55.7 48.6 10.7 -4.1
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