Commodity Slump Accelerates Amid Growth Fears and Fed Taper Talk

Iron ore sits on board a dry bulk cargo barge docked at the Thyssenkrupp AG port in Duisburg, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Commodity Slump Accelerates Amid Growth Fears and Fed Taper Talk

Commodities are headed for their worst week in two months on speculation that economic growth will slow a rebound in demand for raw materials with metals, agriculture and oil falling. 

Copper sank to its lowest price since April and was headed for its worst week in two months, while gold slipped and oil fell to its lowest price since May. The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, which tracks prices for 23 futures contracts, is on course for its worst week since June. Growth woes also helped a gauge of the dollar rise to the highest level since November, reducing commodities’ appeal to foreign investors.

Commodities are “all suffering” partly because the Fed’s upcoming reduction of asset purchases will “remove some of the liquidity, and probably remove some incentives to go on with the whole reflation trade,” said Bart Melek, head of commodities strategy at TD Securities. “The market is looking at these and saying, ‘Less demand, less liquidity -- maybe I should take some profits and take some money off the table’.”

Commodity Slump Accelerates Amid Growth Fears and Fed Taper Talk

Metals markets have been particularly pressured by ongoing concerns about growth in top consumer China and worries that the Federal Reserve may soon start curbing massive stimulus that helped drive prices higher during the past year. The fast-spreading coronavirus delta variant is adding to investor anxiety, with recent weaker-than-expected data in the U.S. and China suggesting the global economic recovery is stalling.

Copper, long considered a barometer of overall economic health, fell below $9,000 a metric ton on Thursday, and tin tumbled as much as 11% as all base metals declined. Precious metals slid as well, led by palladium and platinum.

Mining stocks also moved lower, with BHP Group, Rio Tinto Group, Glencore Plc and Antofagasta Plc down more than 2%. Oil retreated to around $64 a barrel in its sixth consecutive decline, the longest losing streak since February 2020. Grains and soft commodities also fell.

Most Federal Reserve officials agreed that they could start slowing the pace of bond purchases later this year given the progress made toward inflation and employment goals, according to minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s July gathering that were released Wednesday. The commentary boosted the dollar and Treasuries.

Copper slumped as much as 3.5% and settled down 1.6% to $8,894 a metric ton by 5:51 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange. It’s down 7.1% this week and on pace for its worst weekly performance since June. The material reached an all-time high of more than $10,700 in May.

Commodity Slump Accelerates Amid Growth Fears and Fed Taper Talk

Iron and Steel

Iron ore closed down 12% in Singapore on Thursday, the lowest since December. The price of the steelmaking material gained 3.3% to $134.85 a ton in the overnight session after initially jumping more than 11% to above $145.

“Iron ore remains the most China-centric of all commodities, so when economic activity slows, the virus spreads and supply lines are being disrupted, iron ore will be in the firing line,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S.

Iron ore’s slump has spilled over to steel, with prices falling on expectations Chinese demand will wane. The country’s moves to rein in the property market and curb surging prices saw home-prices grow at the slowest pace in six months.

Commodity Slump Accelerates Amid Growth Fears and Fed Taper Talk

Grains markets fell across the board, reacting to a stronger dollar as well as better weather forecasts and strong yield prospects for corn and soy in several key states. Cotton, sugar, coffee were also caught in the downdraft, all down for the day at ICE Futures U.S. in New York. The three crops have been trading near multiyear highs.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was up 0.5%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.