In each month's ISM Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing reports, respondents to the survey are asked whether or not they are seeing an increase or decrease in the prices of commodities they deal with. In this month's survey on the manufacturing sector, there was a notable uptick in the number of commodities that were rising in price. According to the report, respondents noted price increases in 15 different commodities, which was the highest since last February and up from nine in January. This also marked the fourth straight month where no commodities were showing up as falling in price.
The chart below shows the monthly net reading in the number of commodities rising in price going back to 1999 on a three month moving average basis. As shown in the chart, the net number has seen a moderate increase in the last few months and currently stands at 8.7, which is the highest level since March of last year. At this point the increase looks pretty much contained, but if the three month moving average breaks out into the teens, the Fed may have to start thinking about the potential for higher inflation.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the chart below is how contained the recent readings have been. From 1999 through 2011, this was a pretty volatile series swinging from high positive to low negative readings. In the last two years, though, the range has been much smaller. For example, over the last two years the spread between the highest and lowest reading is 17. Prior to 2013, though, the lowest high-low spread over a 24 month period was 24, and the average was 37, or more than twice the current range.