commodities: Some commodities have now wiped out all of their 2021 rally

By Yvonne Yue Li and Marvin G. Perez

For all the talk of a commodities boom, some markets have now wiped out gains for the year and several more are close to doing so.

Soybean futures have erased their 2021 advance, sliding more than 20 per cent from an eight-year high reached in May, while corn and wheat have also tumbled. The Bloomberg Grains Spot Subindex slid the most since 2009 on Thursday, before edging higher on Friday as markets recovered some losses. Other commodities that have seen their big rallies evaporate include platinum, while once-surging nickel, sugar and even lumber have faltered.

The fact that some markets are falling while others — including crude oil and tin — are holding gains underscores how unevenly the complex is responding to economies reopening and expanding once again. While those materials have climbed on strong demand fundamentals, others face their own unique headwinds, such as an easing supply worries in soybeans and monetary policy uncertainty in the case of gold and silver.


Some materials also took a hit this week on the Federal Reserve’s signals for interest-rate increases, a rising dollar and China’s efforts to slow inflation. The Asian country has said it will release metals from state reserves in a timely manner to push prices back to a normal range, ramping up efforts to cool the surge in commodities.
“Risk-off is front and center thanks to the hawkish words from the Fed, which came on the back of the Chinese government-led directives over prior weeks,” said Michael Cuoco, head of hedge-fund sales for metals and bulk materials at StoneX Group. “Central-bank stimulus helped the markets gather steam in the spring of 2020, and now there is a bit of a macro reset.”

Even some of the markets that are clearly benefiting from the reopening are seeing a pullback, with copper heading for its worst week in more than a year. A big backwardation in many commodities and seasonality accounts for some of the recent slump as futures contracts roll over, while improving weather is hurting prices of many agricultural products.

  • Soybean futures in Chicago bounced more than 2 per cent on Friday, but are still heading for a weekly loss of more than 11 per cent, the worst performance in seven years. Corn and wheat also recovered a small part of Thursday’s declines.
  • Base metals were mixed following losses on Thursday. Copper fell 0.6 per cent on the London Metal Exchange and headed for its biggest weekly loss since March 2020. Nickel rose 1 per cent. Iron ore slid 0.3 per cent in Singapore.
  • Precious metals rebounded, after substantial declines. Gold added 0.6 per cent, though is still headed for its worst week in more than a year. Palladium rose 1.2 per cent after Thursday’s 11 per cent slump.
  • Chinese futures caught up with the overnight rout. Rapeseed and soybean oil slid, and copper and zinc dropped.

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