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commodity prices

Burning bright or burned out? The outlook for coal and natural gas markets

Peter Nagle's picture

This blog is the third in a series of ten blogs on commodity market developments, elaborating on themes discussed in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook. Earlier blogs can be found here.
 
Recent developments and outlook: coal

Coal prices rose 12 percent in the third quarter—the fifth straight quarterly increase—and are up 23 percent relative to the same quarter of 2017. Weather patterns in Asia and Europe have been the main drivers of the rise in prices. Low winter temperatures at the start of the year raised demand for fuel for heating, while unusually hot summer temperatures boosted electricity demand for air conditioning. In addition, low hydro availability and supply constraints in the two largest markets--China and India—increased coal imports.

Prices are projected to decline from current elevated levels as China is expected to reduce coal imports by stimulating domestic production, as well as by lowering the share of coal in energy consumption. Upside risks include continued strong growth in electricity demand in other emerging markets that will be met to some extent by coal. Production shortfalls in China and India could also raise import demand and support prices.
 

Commodity Markets Outlook: Modest Oil Price Rise, Trade Uncertainty

John Baffes's picture
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Commodity prices have moved in different directions in recent months – energy prices rose while agriculture and metal prices fell – and are expected to rise or stabilize in 2019, according to the October Commodity Markets Outlook. The following five charts explain:  

Figure 1: Energy and agriculture prices are seen rising in 2019, but forecasts are revised down for all commodities except energy and fertilizers.

February energy prices declined, non-energy prices advanced–Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture
Energy commodity prices fell 5 percent in February—ending seven months of gains—led by a 4 percent drop in crude oil prices, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.

Non-energy prices advanced by over 1 percent. Agricultural prices increased almost 2 percent, largely on higher prices for soybean meal (+12 percent), cocoa (+9 percent), maize and sorghum (+5 percent each). Fertilizer prices rose 2 percent, led by phosphate rock (+6 percent), DAP, and Urea (+2 percent each).

Energy and raw materials prices gained in December, beverages and fertilizer prices fell – Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture
Energy commodity prices gained 2 percent in December—the sixth consecutive monthly gain—led by a 6 percent increase in coal prices, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.

Agriculture prices declined marginally, as a 5 percent decline in beverages, led by cocoa (down 10 percent) outweighed a 2 percent increase in raw materials prices, led by cotton (up 6 percent) and natural rubber (up 5 percent). Fertilizer prices declined 5 percent, led by a 11 percent drop in urea.

Metals and mineral prices gained less than 1 percent. A large gain in iron ore (up 12 percent) was offset by declines in zinc and nickel. Precious metals prices declined 2 percent, led by a 1 percent decline in gold.

The pink sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.
 
Energy and raw material price indexes increased in December while beverage and fertilizer prices declined sharply.

 

OPEC’S grip on oil prices may be slipping: A historical perspective

John Baffes's picture

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.

Depressed energy prices playing key role in lowering food commodity prices

John Baffes's picture

Energy prices play a key role in the determination of food prices. The post-2006 boom of food prices was partly driven by higher energy costs, and the weakness in energy prices since 2014 is expected to hold food commodity prices down in the future as well.

Despite low commodity prices, growth prospects in low-income countries remain robust

Gerard Kambou's picture
Large agricultural sectors, remittances, and public investment have cushioned the impact of sharply weaker terms of trade in commodity-exporting low-income countries (LICs). Growth in LICs was flat in 2014, but is expected to pick up in 2015 and remain robust during 2016–17.  Declining commodity prices, however, are likely to increasingly put pressure on fiscal and current account balances of LICs that rely heavily on exports of energy and metals. Many commodity-exporting LICs have limited buffers to absorb this deterioration.

On booms and super-cycles: China and India's central role in global commodity markets

John Baffes's picture
Global commodity prices underwent an exceptionally strong and sustained boom beginning in 2000. Unlike a typical price cycle, this boom has been characterized as a “super cycle”, i.e., a demand-driven surge in commodity prices lasting possibly decades rather than years. Many researchers say this is the fourth “super cycle” of the past 150 years. The price super cycle has been attributed to strong growth in emerging markets.

Commodities (mostly) continue to tumble

John Baffes's picture

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. 

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