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Metal price indices tumble in March

Keywords: Tags  producer price index, steel, copper, aluminum, copper scrap, aluminum scrap, iron scrap, steel scrap Nigel Gault

CHICAGO — Seven of nine prime and scrap metal price indices tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics declined month on month in March, and all but one index was weaker year on year.

The producer price index (PPI) for steel mill products was 196.0 in March, off slightly from February and 9.5 percent lower year on year.

The PPI for copper and brass mill shapes, at 426.5, was down 2.6 percent month on month and 5.5 percent year on year. The copper-based scrap index fell 3.3 percent in March after posting three consecutive monthly gains.

The index for aluminum mill shapes was off 0.1 percent month on month and 2.7 percent year on year. Aluminum-based scrap pricing fell 2.8 percent and was 6.6 percent lower compared with March 2012.

The PPI for all finished goods fell 0.6 percent in March (seasonally adjusted) after rising the previous two months. At the earlier stages of processing, prices received by manufacturers of intermediate goods dipped 0.9 percent, and that for crude goods fell 2.5 percent.

Iron and steel scrap was the outlier in March, rising 6.6 percent to 549.3, although it fell 13 percent from a year earlier.

"Inflation remains quiet. Core inflation is low and steady, and the headline ups and downs are being driven by gasoline prices," Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for Lexington, Mass.-based IHS Global Insight Inc., said.

"Since gasoline prices have fallen further in April, we are likely to see the headline PPI drop again next month," he added.

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