Fourth quarter holds steady
According to the Plant Engineering Cost Index (PECI), plant operating costs increased by a mere 0.1% in December to 149.1. Compared to a year earlier, costs were 2.2% higher in December. For the year as a whole, costs were 1.6% higher in 1997 than in 1996. Competitive pressures from abroad, combined with the strength of the U.S. dollar, have prevented U.S. manufacturers from raising product prices in recent years. Because costs were rising at a faster rate towards the end of the year, however, we may see an upward swing in costs for 1998.