Are we heading for ‘perfect storm’ in commodity production and prices? Certainly the prices of many commodities have soared in recent months. These include the prices of foodstuffs such as dairy products, cooking oils and cereals, crude oil, cotton, metals and many other raw materials. The overall world commodity price index has risen by 28% in the past 12 months. The following are some examples of specific commodities:
Price rises in the 12 months to February 2011
• Wheat 62%
• Maize 59%
• Coffee 70%
• Beef 39%
• Sugar 46%
• Palm kernal oil 142%
• Soybean oil 50%
• All food price index 32%
• Crude oil 20%
• Cotton 132%
• Fine wool 55%
• Softwood timber 25%
• Iron ore 78%
• Copper 29%
• Tin 55%
• All metals index 58%
• Rubber 79%.
The problems are both short term and long term, and on both the demand and supply sides; and the effects will be at micro, macro and global levels. Some hard choices lie ahead.
The following webcast, articles and reports explore both the current position and look into the future to ask whether rising commodity prices are likely to continue or even accelerate.
The first link is to a BBC World Debate which considers the following issues: “Is scarcity of natural resources a serious challenge for developing and advanced economies? How great is the risk that scarcity might lead to conflict, both within and between nations? Might a scramble for resources lead to a retreat from globalisation and to greater protectionism?”
World Debate: Resources BBC World Debate, Louise Arbour, President and CEO, International Crisis Group; James Cameron, Global Agenda Council on Climate Change; He Yafei, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the UN; Malini Mehra, Founder and CEO, Centre for Social Markets; Kevin Rudd, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Australia (19/1/11)
Global Food Prices Continue to Rise Reuters, Steve Savage (7/3/11)
The 2011 oil shock The Economist (3/3/11)
Global Food Prices Will Probably Be Sustained at Record This Year, UN Says Bloomberg, Supunnabul Suwannaki (9/3/11)
Food prices to stay high as oil costs, weather weigh livemint.com, Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat (9/3/11)
‘Perfect storm’ threatens agriculture in developing nations Manila Bulletin, Lilybeth G. Ison (9/3/11)
IMF sees no immediate respite from high food prices Commodity Online (7/3/11)
Drought, supply, speculation drive world food prices to record high NZ Catholic (8/3/11)
The Factors Affecting Global Food Prices Seeking Alpha, David Hunkar (7/3/11)
World food prices climb to record as UN sounds alarm on further shortages FnBnews (India), Rudy Ruitenberg (9/3/11)
Food crisis: It’s a moral issue for all of us New Straits Times (Malaysia), Rueben Dudley (8/3/11)
Oil prices: Green light from the black stuff Guardian (5/3/11)
Cotton hits $2 a pound Guardian, Terry Macalister (17/2/11)
Supermarkets are raising prices faster than inflation, says UBS The Telegraph, Philip Aldrick (1/3/11)
What next for commodity prices? BBC News, Jamie Robertson (5/5/11)
FAO Cereal Supply and Demand BriefFood & Agriculture Organization, United Nations (March 2011)
Rising Prices on the Menu Finance & Development (IMF), Thomas Helbling and Shaun Roache (March 2011)
Commodity prices Index Mundi
Commodities Financial Times, market data
- Identify the various factors that are causing rises in commodity prices. In each case state whether they are supply-side or demand-side factors.
- How can the price elasticity of demand and supply, the income elasticity of demand and the cross-price elasticity of demand be used to analyse the magnitude of the price rises?
- To what extent are rising food prices the result of (a) short-term (i.e. reversible) factors; (b) long-term trends?
- Why are food prices in the shops rising faster in the UK than in many other countries?
- To what extent is the future of food security and prices and moral issues?
- Why may current oil price rises become an opportunity for the future?
- What might be the respective roles be of government, business and consumers in responding to natural resource constraints?
Oil affects our everyday lives. Whether it’s to heat your house, to run your car or to work out production costs, the price of oil is important. Commodity prices are determined by the interaction of demand and supply and oil prices are no different. As demand and supply for products and for oil itself change, so will the price of oil. However, any changes in the price of this valuable commodity will also have effects on macroeconomic variables, such as inflation. From a high of $147 (£90) per barrel in July 2008, it fell to $30 by the end of the year. But since then it doubled to reach $60 by May and has been around the $70 mark since.
How have these fluctuations affected the economy? Should more be invested in extraction? Extracting oil is an expensive process and requires huge investment, which is problematic given the current recession and various funding issues. The following articles consider this problem, as well as the impact it is likely to have on our economic recovery.
Total issues oil shortage warning BBC News (21/9/09)
Crude price ‘shock’ is next threat to recovery The Independent (22/9/09)
Oil prices slide on demand fears BBC News (21/9/09)
Pound drops as UK stocks fall for first time in seven days Oil-price.net (22/9/09)
Oil prices tumble amid worries over weak demand Channel News Asia (22/9/09)
Oil price touches high for 2009 BBC News (21/8/09)
FTSE soars over surge in oil prices The Press Association (21/9/09)
Oil price data can be found at:
Brent Spot Price (monthly) Energy Information Administration.
Note: you can select daily, weekly, monthly or annual data, and data for other oil markets too. Data can be downloaded to Excel.
- How is the price of oil determined? Why is it so volatile? How is price elasticity of demand relevant to your answer?
- Over the coming ten years, which factors are likely to affect (a) demand for oil (b) supply of oil?
- Explain whether the price of oil is likely to rise faster or less fast than general prices.
- How do changes in the price of oil affect the government’s macroeconomic objectives and its policy decisions?
- Explain why the price of oil is such an important consideration for firms
Many primary commodity prices have fallen during the recession, but have recovered somewhat as the recession has bottomed out and hopes of a recovery have grown. So what will happen to commodity prices over the next few months and beyond, and what will determine the size of the price changes? The following linked articles look at these questions.
Commodity prices set to rise further, Roubini says Telegraph (3/8/09)
Have oil prices peaked for 2009? Hemscott (25/8/09)
What’s Ahead for Commodities BusinessWeek (23/8/09)
Gas Prices to Triple by Winter? (video) CNBC (25/8/09)
For commodity price data see:
Commodity Price Index Monthly Price Index Mundi
- What will determine the amount by which commodity prices rise (a) over the next twelve months; (b) the next three years?
- What will determine the size of any change in the Australian dollar from rising commodity prices?
- How does the holding of stocks affect (a) the size of commodity price changes; (b) the volatility of commodity price changes?
- Under what circumstances is speculation in commodity markets likely to (a) stabilise and (b) destabilise commodity prices?
- Explain why gas prices are likely to rise less than oil prices.
The pound has been rising against the US dollar recently. And as the dollar has fallen, so the prices of various commodities, such as gold and silver, have been rising. So what are the reasons for these currency and commodity price movements? The simple answer is that they merely reflect changes in demand and supply. But why have demand and supply been changing? Are there changes in the underlying economic fundamentals, or do they largely reflect speculation in times of uncertainty and resulting market overcorrection? The following articles address these questions.
Sterling rises on hopes of recovery Financial Times (4/6/09)
Jeremy Warner: Dollar weakness is a sign that things are on the mend Independent (4/6/09)
Stephanie Flanders Blog: What goes down… BBC News (3/6/09)
Dollar on the rack International Business Times (1/6/09)
Sterling hits six-month high against the dollar Times Online (29/5/09)
Exchange rates: What next for the pound? This is Money (2/6/09)
Gold News BullionVault (3/6/09)
The Top 10 Reasons to Hold Gold, Bar None! The Motley Fool (2/6/09)
- Explain why the pound been rising strongly against the dollar.
- What is likely to happen to the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar and the euro over the next few months?
- If it were possible to predict the future exchange rate today, what would happen to the exchange rate today?
- Why might it be a good time to buy gold? Why might it be too late?