Inflation mismatch could lead to higher prices

In November 2002, prices for plant construction and maintenance supplies fell 0.1%, while costs to manufacture those supplies rose 0.7%. This inflation mismatch means suppliers are facing tighter margins now and buyers could face higher prices ahead. Consider the sheet metal work (SIC 3444) industry.


In November 2002, prices for plant construction and maintenance supplies fell 0.1%, while costs to manufacture those supplies rose 0.7%. This inflation mismatch means suppliers are facing tighter margins now and buyers could face higher prices ahead.

Consider the sheet metal work (SIC 3444) industry. Higher raw materials and labor spending pushed the cost of manufacturing a unit of output in the sheet metal work industry up 0.7% in November. The rise marks the fourth increase of more than 0.5% in the last 5 months and it had a significant bottom-line impact. Since midsummer, margins in SIC 3444 have shed $1.92 per $100 of product sold.

Cost control problems in SIC 3444 stem from the imposition of steel tariffs earlier this year. Over the last 9 months, per-unit spending on raw materials has increased 5.3% while industry product prices have been limited to a gain of just 1.4%. The single biggest bottom-line squeeze has come from steel sheet and strip where per-unit costs are up a whopping 17.9%.

Meanwhile, deflation continues to hold sway over the pricing habits of sawmill operators. Here industry tags fell for the sixth time in 7 months, down 0.8% in November. Fortunately for producers, a 0.4% drop in per-unit manufacturing costs helped limit the bottom-line damage from weak prices.

Thinking Cap Solutions projects prices for products made in SIC 2421 will rise an average of 3.40% in 2003. All of this will fall to the bottom line thanks to a 0.40% dip in the cost of making a unit of industry output. By 2003:Q4, industry margins will be $4.30 (per $100 of product sold) above their 2002:Q4 level. In 2004, prices will be better behaved, gaining just 0.20%.

Price/cost/demand roundup

Industry SIC Average Product Prices Average Product Prices Direct Mfg. Costs Direct Mfg. Costs Growth in U.S. End Markets Growth in U.S. End Markets

the average producer in an industry. Grades of A to A+ mean plant engineers may be able to strike a better bargain with suppliers and better control plant costs.

General Sawmills and Planing Mills2421-1.80-1.60stableF-1.49-0.52
Hardwood Veneer and Plywood24350.370.05stableC-2.38-1.25
Softwood Veneer and Plywood2436-2.40-3.16fallingD-2.38-1.25
Metal Partitions and Fixtures2542-0.59-0.73stableF--1.01-1.91
Paints and Allied Products28511.641.59risingC-2.14-0.27
Flat Glass3211-2.37-2.57stableF-1.244.44
Other Structural Clay Products32593.964.12stableA-2.89-2.29
Gypsum Products32753.497.53stableD-2.72-2.41
Mineral Wool32961.400.85stableD-3.58-1.51
Steel Pipe and Tubes3317-0.622.41risingBnana
Plumbing Fittings and Brass Goods3432-0.79-0.26stableD-3.37-2.70
Metal Doors, Sash and Trim34420.720.58risingC-2.80-2.56
Sheet Metal Work34440.040.74risingF-1.001.78
Refrigeration and Heating Equipment35850.460.43stableF-2.05-0.39
Current-Carrying Wiring Devices3643-1.13-0.60stableF--2.24-0.27
Noncurrent-Carrying Wiring Devices36441.681.34stableD-2.24-0.27
Commercial Lighting Fixtures3646-0.23-0.32stableF--1.95-1.62
Environmental Controls38220.050.06stableD-2.44-2.01

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