Increased turmoil in the Middle East may be having an effect on U.S. construction materials prices. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Feb. 16 Producer Price Index, materials prices increased 0.4 percent in January and are 5.4 percent higher than a year ago. Nonresidential construction materials prices were up 0.4 percent for the month and are 4.8 percent higher compared to the same time last year.

Iron and steel prices also increased 1.8 percent in January, and are 7 percent higher than January 2011. Steel mill prices increased 1.3 percent for the month and have increased 9.4 percent during the past 12 months. Prices for plumbing fixtures and fittings increased 0.5 percent compared to December and rose 3.1 percent since last January. Prices for concrete products inched up 0.2 percent for the month and are 1.5 percent higher than one year ago. In contrast, prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding fell 2.9 percent for the month and are down 1 percent year over year. Nonferrous wire and cable prices dipped 2.5 percent in January and have decreased 5.6 percent during the past 12 months. Prices for fabricated structural metal products decreased 0.8 percent for the month but are still 3.4 percent higher than a year ago. Softwood lumber prices slipped 0.6 percent in January and are 3.2 percent lower compared to the same time last year.

Crude energy prices increased 1.6 percent for the month as crude petroleum prices jumped 5.7 percent. Year over year, crude energy prices are up 2.1 percent.

Overall, the nation’s wholesale prices increased 0.1 percent for the month and are 4.1 percent higher than January 2011.