JOFC INDEX INDICATES LITTLE OR NO INFLATION

JOFC INDEX INDICATES LITTLE OR NO INFLATION

The Journal of Commerce Industrial Price Index continues to suggest little or no inflation in the U.S. economy as prices for sensitive industrial commodities like wood and metals, either remained the same or moved slightly lower last week.

The plywood market, which has lead some of the recent gains in the index after leaping on news of a stronger housing market, was $319 to $321 a 1,000 board feet, unchanged for the week.Analysts said strength that overtook the market earlier this fall has pettered out and the cash market for wood prices was expected to weaken. Adding to any decline in the next few days is the anticipation that business in plywood and lumber will slow before the start of the Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday.

Some lumber mills offering the commodity for prompt shipment at lower prices were moving inventory. British Columbia mills Friday held asking prices steady at $394.00 a 1,000 board feet.

Also, prices were tending to look lower because worsening U.S. weather conditions over the next several weeks could hinder construction demand.

Meanwhile, the Portland, Ore. Western Wood Products Association said lumber production was 352 million board feet last week, compared to 346 million the previous week.

Orders were 280 million board feet, 113 million feet under the previous week's level. Shipments were reported at 345 million feet, an increase of 21 million feet.

In the metal markets, copper, zinc and tin prices moved lower late last week. The markets for these commodities reflected a lack of new business, especially by end-users of the metals, dealers said.

European metal dealers said demand in the European Community was sluggish while Japan's metals dealers are bracing for cutbacks in output soon.

Japan lead smelters could be forced to lower production soon to ride out a short fall of lead concentrate - the semi-raw material used to make the metal. Less concentrate feed material is available worldwide, Knight-Ridder Financial News reported on Friday.

But, such moves could help shore up sagging lead prices, which are down about $60 a metric ton since January, KRF reported sources as saying.

Western world concentrate production should decline 9.1 percent to 2.083 million metric tons this year, due mainly to declines in output in Canada, Australia and the U.S., Lehman Brothers Commodity Risk Management Group said on Friday.

At its current operating rate, one Japanese smelter will run out of

concentrates by the end of March unless new supplies are obtained, a source said.