Average prices for brass and copper plumbing products rose by less than 1% for the second year in a row during 2002. Through the first eleven months of 2002, the Labor Department's producer price index for these plumbing products had risen at an average annualized rate of just 0.6%, after increasing by a scant 0.2% between 2000 and 2001. Average prices fell by an unexpectedly steep 0.7% between October and November of last year, so the November 2002 price index was only 0.1% higher than in November 2001.
The price index had shown steady, if muted, upward movement in plumbing prices during the spring and summer of last year, despite continued intense competition from imports.
The inflation trend for plastic plumbing products, however, looked much different. During the past several years, plastics product inflation has been erratic — something which can be attributed to the volatility in oil prices. After increasing by a steep 9.2% during 2000, the price index plunged by 11.4% in 2001, and then soared 9.8% by the end of November 2002.