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Economy in Brief

FIBER: Industrial Commodity Prices Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  January 17, 2022

• Crude oil prices rebound.

• Metals prices surge.

• Lumber costs skyrocket.

The Industrial Materials Price Index from the Foundation for International Business and Economic Research (FIBER) rose 2.8% during the four weeks ended January 14. The gain followed a 52-week increase of 18.3% in 2021.

Crude oil & benzene costs rose 6.3% in the last four weeks and 28.7% in 2021. Last year's increase followed a 9.7% decline in 2020. The cost of crude oil rose to $80.66 per barrel last week, up 52.4% y/y. The price of the petro-chemical benzene gained 8.5% during the last four weeks after rising by one-half in 2021. Excluding crude oil, industrial commodity prices rose 2.2% in the last four weeks and 16.3% last year.

Prices in the metals group jumped 4.3% in the last four weeks and 31.8% last year. Aluminum costs improved 12.1% in the recent four weeks after increasing 41.3% in 2021. Zinc prices increased 7.0% in the last four weeks after rising 28.5% last year. Copper scrap prices rose 3.3% in four weeks after rising by roughly one-quarter in 2021. Offsetting these recent increases was a 0.2% easing in the cost of steel scrap, but it rose 10.3% in all of 2021.

The miscellaneous price index rose 1.2% during the last four weeks but framing lumber prices surged 14.1% on top of a 27.4% rise last year. Natural rubber prices eased 1.4% in four weeks following an 11.7% decline in 2021.

Prices in the textile group rose 1.2% during the last four weeks after increasing 9.5% in 2021. Cotton prices gained 8.2% in four weeks after rising by one-half in 2021. The cost of burlap, used for sacks, bags and gardening eased 0.7% in the last four weeks after rising 25.7% during all of last year.

Industrial commodity prices should remain strong. The National Association for Business Economics calls for a 4.0% rise in industrial output 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 2021 2020 2019
All Items 2.8 4.0 8.5 18.4 18.3 13.5 1.1
  Excluding Crude Oil 2.2 4.2 8.4 16.6 16.3 16.0 -0.6
 Textiles 1.2 1.5 5.2 9.0 9.5 3.9 -1.6
  Cotton (cents per pound) 8.2 8.0 32.7 47.5 49.9 11.6 -6.6
 Metals 4.3 2.5 9.0 29.4 31.8 20.4 -4.3
  Aluminum ($ per metric ton) 12.1 -2.9 18.9 46.3 41.3 13.1 -6.5
  Copper Scrap (cents per pound) 3.3 1.8 4.5 22.0 23.2 26.9 3.5
  Steel Scrap ($ per ton) -0.2 -1.1 -6.7 -1.6 10.3 43.6 -0.8
 Crude Oil & Benzene 6.3 2.4 3.7 26.0 28.7 -9.7 20.2
  Crude Oil (WTI, $ per Barrel) 13.0 0.2 9.7 52.4 57.5 -21.4 35.5
 Miscellaneous 1.2 8.2 12.8 13.5 9.8 29.1 -0.0
  Framing Lumber ($ per 1000 board ft.) 14.1 68.2 90.9 49.6 27.4 113.5 22.6
  Natural Rubber (cents per pound) -1.4 4.6 6.4 -10.5 -11.7 48.6 10.7
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