The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Producer Price Indexes (PPI) for February. Energy prices, rising 3.0% based largely on gasoline prices, pushed the overall index up 0.7%. Food prices declined 0.5% while the core price index (i.e., excluding food and energy) was stable, rising 0.2% since last month.
While overall producer prices have been relatively stable, the prices for certain building materials have risen rapidly as the housing recovery has gained momentum since the beginning of 2012. Overall producer prices are up less than 3% while softwood lumber, OSB and gypsum prices are 30%, 80% and 26% higher than at the start of 2012.
The rising prices of these building materials represent a significant challenge for home builders as they find themselves squeezed between rising input prices and a housing market where prices are only recently recovering from their steep declines.