INDUSTRIAL PRICE INDEX RISES TO NEW '90 HIGH STRONGER METALS PROVIDE BOOST

INDUSTRIAL PRICE INDEX RISES TO NEW '90 HIGH STRONGER METALS PROVIDE BOOST

The Journal of Commerce Industrial Price Index rose to 104.1 on Friday, a gain of 0.9 point for the week and a new high for the year. Compared with Thursday, the index was up 0.4 point.

Stronger metal prices have lifted the index by about 1.5 percent from 103.1 two weeks ago.However, the annual smoothed percentage change, which is considered a better indicator of the index's measure of inflationary expectations, moved up more slowly in the same two-week period, although it remained negative. The smoothed rate of change has been pointing to an easing of inflationary pressures in the economy over the next nine to 12 months.

Rates of change in the index is computered by a formula that smooths away some of the erratic fluctuations in the day-to-day price movements.

Economic data from the government in recent months have indicated some modest inflationary pressures in the economy. Last week's release of February's Consumer Price Index was generally higher than most analysts expected.

The price of scrap copper remained firm last week by about 4 cents to 94 cents a pound.

Lead and zinc prices also lifted the index's metals subgroup by 2.9 points to 113.8 points on Friday compared with the corresponding period last week. Lead was quoted at 62.50 cents a pound compared with 55 cents the previous week. Zinc was up to 83.25 cents from 76.50 cents a week earlier.

All three heavily weighted metals significantly influenced the Journal of Commerce Index over the past few weeks.

Acceptance of management's contract terms at Canada's Noranda Horne smelter and the end to a dockworkers' strike in Peru cooled down some fundamental bullishness in the copper markets last week, but the ongoing strike at Southern Peru Copper Corp., where management refuses to negotiate with striking workers, continued to fuel a bullish outlook. On Friday, the trade was expecting the copper company to declare force majeure. The company's expected inability to meet commitments to ship copper would reflect shortages created by the prolonged strike, analysts said.

Prices for most base metals followed copper's lead. Specifically, lead and zinc are found with copper during the mining process and extracted as byproducts. Lead is refined for use in batteries - primarily for automobile batteries - and in paints and dyes used as corrosion inhibitors. Zinc is used to remove gold and silver from lead, to galvanize metals and to form oxides used in the manufacturer of plastics, rubber, skin ointments and cosmetics.

The textile subindex was 104.6 on Friday, down 0.3 point from the previous Friday. Cotton prices were on the defensive most of last week, ending at 67.61 cents a pound on Friday. The previous week's average was 68.50 a pound.

Polyester fiber and print cloth prices remained unchanged.

In the miscellaneous category, crude oil prices fluctuated in the high $19 to low $20 a barrel range while benzene prices were down to $1.285 a gallon

from $1.305 a week earlier.

Plywood prices held steady at $220 to $222 a thousand board feet as the market lacked new demand for the key building material despite the onset of the traditional home building season.