The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Real commodity prices and the U.S. rate cycle

-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own. --

Commodity prices exhibit a strong cyclical component -- though it can be masked when producers are carrying a lot of excess capacity.

The attached chart shows the real price of various commodity baskets (Jan 1980=100) overlaid by U.S. interest rates (discount rate, later funds target), and the business cycle (NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee).

Prices began rising well ahead of interest rates after three of the last four recessions. Commodity markets anticipated future increases in demand even as policymakers prefered to hold back while recovery became more firmly established.

The current price rebound is unusual only for its strength.

Part of the explanation is the increasing weight of China and other emerging markets in global commodity consumption. As a result, the U.S. business and rate cycles and those of the other advanced economies now affect less than half the consumption of many commodities worldwide.