CHICAGO Most metals notched monthly producer price index (PPI) increases in December, regaining ground lost the previous month, but year-on-year comparisons were mixed, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The months biggest gainer was copper-based scrap, rising 5.3 percent to 609.2 (not seasonally adjusted), more than reversing a month-earlier decline of 3.5 percent (amm.com, Dec. 18), and up 0.9 percent from a year earlier. The copper and brass mill shapes index was put at 432.3, up 1.5 percent from November and 1 percent from December 2011.
The iron and steel scrap index rose 0.9 percent last month to 532.2 but remained 15.5 percent lower year on year. The steel mill products index also rose 0.9 percent in December to 198.5 but was down 7.9 percent from a year earlier.
The price index for aluminum-based scrap was 241.5 last month, up 2.3 percent both month on month and year on year, while the aluminum mill shapes index of 178.1 was up 0.4 percent from November but down 1.6 percent from December 2011.
The titanium mill shapes index remained flat month on month at 186.9, but fell 7.7 from a year earlier.
The seasonally adjusted producer price index for all finished goods fell 0.2 percent in December, largely due to lower energy and food prices.
Retail sales figures released this week showed positive December numbers that reflected holiday shopping, but "the outlook is not so optimistic for the first quarter," said Chris G. Christopher Jr., senior principal economist at Lexington, Mass.-based consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc.
"Our forecast for consumer spending, adjusted for inflation growth, is 2.1 percent for the fourth quarter. However, the first quarter of the new year is likely to end up at a 1.4-percent growth (rate), since disposable income is going to take a hit due to the expiry of the payroll tax cut," he said. And "if the political bickering over the debt ceiling issue reaches a fever pitch, as it did in summer 2011, then consumer confidence will nosedive further into recession territory."