Commodity Market Outlook
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) unsettled oil markets in September when it announced it would resume placing limits on oil production among its members, effectively reversing two years of unrestrained production.
But how much control can OPEC really exert over prices? History suggests that formal agreements to influence the price of a particular commodity eventually fall apart. OPEC’s own history also shows that the short term benefits of managing supplies become long term liabilities. In addition, the oil producing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of nonconventional producers, notably the U.S. shale oil industry. These factors will test the oil exporting organization’s power to influence markets.
Prices for most commodities, including oil, are forecast to rise in 2017 as a long period of declining prices appears to be bottoming out, according to the October Commodities Markets Outlook.
Oil prices are forecast to rise to $55 per barrel next year from $43 per barrel in 2016 as markets readjust after an era of abundant supply that outpaced demand. Energy prices, which also include coal and natural gas, are forecast to jump 24 percent in the coming year. The decision in September of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to resume limiting oil production is another important factor behind the higher price forecast.
Most commodity price indexes rebounded in February-March from their January lows on improved market sentiment and a weakening dollar. Still, average prices for the first quarter fell compared to the last quarter of 2015, with energy prices down 21 percent and non-energy prices lower by 2 percent according to the April 2016 Commodity Markets Outlook.
Our quarterly Commodities Markets Outlook report analyzes markets for major commodities groups and forecasts prices for 46 commodities from bananas to zinc. The price declines are part of a five-year-long commodities slump.
We just published our Commodity Market Outlook for the third quarter of 2015, and report that most prices declined in the second quarter of 2015 due to ample supplies and weak demand, especially in industrial commodities (see figure below).
Energy prices rose 12 percent in the quarter, with the surge in oil offset by declines in natural gas (down 13 percent) and coal prices (down 4 percent). However, energy prices fell on average to 39 percent below 2014 levels. Natural gas prices are projected to decline across all three main markets—U.S., Europe, and Asia—and coal prices to fall 17 percent. Excluding energy, our report notes a 2 percent decline in prices for the quarter, and forecasts that non-energy prices will average 12 percent below 2014 levels this year. Iran’s new nuclear agreement with the US and other leading governments, if ratified, will ease sanctions, including restrictions on oil exports from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Downside risks to the forecast include higher-than-expected non-OPEC production (supported by falling production costs) and continuing gains in OPEC output. Possible (less likely) upside pressures may come from closure of high-cost operations—the number of operational oil rigs in the US is down 60 percent since its November high, for example—and geopolitical tensions.
|The World Bank just published its January 2014 Commodity Outlook. With the exception of energy, all the key commodity price indices declined significantly in 2013. Fertilizer prices led the decline, down 17.4 percent from 2012, followed by precious metals (down almost 17 percent), agriculture (-7.2 percent), and metals (-5.5 percent).|