Why are commodities surging?
Interesting take on the rise in commodity prices from Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics. The rise has little to do with the weaker dollar and everything to do with expectations of global economic recovery, he says.
The broad-based revival in commodity prices since March clearly reflects a combination of factors. One of these is the pure accounting effect of the depreciation of the dollar. Other things being equal, a fall in the U.S. currency will of course put upward pressure on commodity prices when measured in dollar terms – commodity producers with bills to pay in other currencies such as euros and pounds will require a higher price in dollars, while consumers outside the dollar bloc will be more able to pay that higher price. However, the movements in currencies have generally been small compared to the underlying movements in commodity prices.
Looking closely at the relative performance of different commodities, Jessop reckons the rally has primarily been led by oil and industrial metals, which are the most sensitive to the economic cycle. Inflation-driven commodities such as precious metals, including gold, have underperformed in the rally, he says.
Jessop takes all this to mean that higher commodity prices are just another manifestation of the growth in confidence about the global economic outlook. However, echoing investors who increasingly want to see concrete evidence, he warns that the anticipated pick-up in growth-based demand has yet to actually materialise.
Is it all just an illusion, then? Wishful thinking that allows for a rebuilding of depleted stocks?