After rising by a scant 0.2% in 2001, average prices for plumbing products and fixtures have increased at a rate of less than 1% again this year.
The producer price index, which tracks the final effective price received by U.S. manufacturers for the product that they ship through all distribution points, declined by 0.1% from June to July of this year. And the July 2002 price index was only 0.8% above its level of July 2001, despite the small price increases recorded during five of the first six months of 2002.
Continued intense competition from imports during the past several years has limited the ability of domestic producers to raise prices, despite solid demand, especially from residential construction markets. However, raw materials prices, most notably for copper and plastics, have been stable during this period, enabling most companies to at least maintain reasonable operating margins.