Commodity price increases threaten profits again

DETROIT Here come rising and volatile commodity prices again.

Ford Motor Co. warned that rising commodity prices will make it difficult to repeat its strong first-quarter profits.

CFO Lewis Booth told reporters last month that the automaker sees higher prices in the second half of the year, but he declined to provide specifics.

"We'll be doing our best to wash out commodity price increases with those structural cost savings Ford has put in place," Booth said during a conference call.

JPMorgan's weighted commodity index rose 10 percent month over month for April.

Prices rose 10 percent for cold-rolled steel and jumped 25 percent for natural rubber.

Steel prices have strengthened this year from stronger demand for scrap steel, iron ore and other raw materials.

Severstal North America in suburban Detroit has raised noncontract prices five times this year because of higher costs, says spokeswoman Bette Kovach. Severstal is the country's fourth-largest steel maker

Aluminum prices have been vola-tile for the past year.

Heinz Otto, CEO of Behr America Inc., told Automotive News that noncontract prices for the type of aluminum Behr uses for its engine cooling and heating and air conditioning systems have ranged during the past year from $1,400 to $3,200 a ton.

The suburban Detroit company is largely insulated from aluminum price volatility because some of its automaker customers have in place automatic price adjustments that fluctuate based on an industry index.

Copper contracts for 30-day delivery have jumped from about $2 a pound to $3.60 a pound over the past year. Copper prices closed at a cash price of $3.33 on April 30.

Copper is used for automotive wiring and brake lines.c

Jamie LaReau contributed to this report

Tags: Automakers