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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Improve
by Tom Moeller  September 17, 2021

• Increase is broad-based.

• Crude oil prices strengthen.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) rose 1.4% during the four weeks ended September 17. The rise came as manufacturing sector activity strengthened this summer.

Prices in the miscellaneous group rose 3.3% during the last four weeks as framing lumber prices rebounded 26.6% following earlier declines. Plywood prices, however, continued to trend sideways. Natural rubber prices declined 7.2% in the last four weeks.

Crude oil & benzene prices rose 1.3% in the last four weeks. The cost of crude oil strengthened 7.8% over four weeks to $71.08 per barrel, a seven-week high. The price peaked at $73.82 early in July. Prices for the petro-chemical benzene fell 7.4% over four weeks but rose 118.2% y/y. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 1.0% in the last four weeks.

Prices in the metals group rose 0.5% in the last four weeks reflecting a 10.9% surge in the cost of aluminum. Copper scrap costs rose 2.9% while zinc prices improved 2.2% (23.7% y/y). Offsetting these gains, steel scrap prices fell 2.7% during the last month.

Textile group prices rose 0.2% during the last four weeks. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening improved 2.0% in four weeks (25.4% y/y). Cotton prices, however, fell 0.4% during the last four weeks.

Industrial commodity prices are likely to remain firm. The industrial production forecast from the National Association for Business Economics calls for a 5.9% rise in industrial output this year, followed by a 4.3% 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 -1.8 3.4 23.6 13.5 1.1 -12.0
  Excluding Crude Oil 1.0 -1.9 2.9 20.6 16.0 -0.6 -11.1
 Textiles 0.2 2.0 2.6 9.4 3.9 -1.6 -2.8
  Cotton (cents per pound) -0.4 11.6 10.7 51.6 11.6 -6.6 -9.2
 Metals 0.5 1.9 13.6 45.1 20.4 -4.3 -12.2
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 10.9 17.0 32.4 64.6 13.1 -6.5 -12.7
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) 2.9 -2.0 4.7 39.9 26.9 3.5 -16.1
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) -2.7 -11.8 1.8 49.7 43.6 -0.8 2.3
 Crude Oil & Benzene 1.3 0.3 4.8 45.9 -9.7 20.2 -20.0
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) 7.8 -0.4 11.1 82.9 -21.4 35.5 -24.4
 Miscellaneous 3.3 -8.8 -4.9 9.2 29.1 -0.0 -14.8
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 26.6 -40.7 -40.0 -35.1 113.5 22.6 -23.1
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) -7.2 -16.3 -23.2 -5.6 48.6 10.7 -4.1
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