Now that deflation worries are upon us, even the mainstream media is taking note of the reversal of the commodities price surge of earlier this year. Below are some excerpts from a New York Times article, “Commodity Prices Tumble.”
But first, this tidbit, courtesy reader Michael, from an Oppenheimer report, dated October 13, “Surviving Lower Oil Prices” by Fadel Gheit and Daniel Katzenberg:
The investment banks that hyped oil prices using voodoo economics have suddenly reversed their position and now expect much lower oil prices. They helped cause excessive speculation, create the oil bubble, and contributed to the global financial crisis. They have changed their tune in exchange for a government bailout, not because of changes in market fundamentals.
Well, at least someone isn’t mincing words.
From the New York Times:
The global financial panic and the economic slowdown have put at least a temporary end to the commodity bull market of the last seven years, sending prices tumbling for many of the raw ingredients of the world economy….
The swift turnaround is the brightest economic news on the horizon for consumers, putting money into their pockets at a time they need it badly. Gasoline prices in the United States are falling precipitously — by about 24 cents over the last five days, to a national average of $3.21 a gallon on Monday — and analysts said they could go below $3 a gallon nationally this fall, down from a high of $4.11 a gallon in July….
The rapid commodity decline has eased fears of inflation, a reason central banks were able to lower interest rates around the world last week in an effort to salvage economic growth. It also represents a fundamental shift of view that is driving markets these days.
A scant few months ago, Americans were seen as participants in a bidding war with the emerging Chinese, Indian, Russian and Brazilian middle classes for a basket full of products. But that was before an extreme slowdown in demand for things as diverse as gasoline and aluminum and the retreat of investment money from commodity futures into safer havens like government bonds….
“Commodities followed the euphoria cycle that we had along with housing,” said Robert J. Shiller, an economist at Yale who specializes in market bubbles. “We had the idea that the world is growing very fast, people are getting very rich and, by the way, we are running out of everything. That theory doesn’t seem so good when the economy is collapsing.”
Some analysts, while welcoming the recent declines, say they believe that prices are likely to remain above long-term norms. Food, in particular, could be a continuing problem: today’s prices are still too high to allow many people in developing countries to afford adequate diets. Nor have the recent declines been passed along in American grocery stores, at least as of yet. The United Nations has projected that global food prices will remain elevated for years….
Americans, the world’s largest fuel consumers, have been cutting back on gasoline all year, and the decline is approaching double digits. Motorists pumped 9.5 percent less gasoline for the week ended Oct. 3 compared with the same week a year earlier, according to MasterCard Advisors, which tracks spending. In a report on Friday, the International Energy Agency cut its forecast for global oil consumption yet again, projecting that 2008 would end with the slowest demand growth in 15 years.
Big increases in world wheat production because of increased acreage in the United States, Canada, Russia and much of Europe have brought wheat prices to less than $6 a bushel today from nearly $13 in March.
Soybean prices have dropped to $9 a bushel from $16 since July, in part because of a record crop in China and a slowdown in Chinese imports. Corn prices are also easing amid expanded supply…
“When you have a seven-year bull run, you are going to have more than a four-month correction, and we are just beginning our fourth month,” said Richard Feltes, senior vice president and director of commodity research at MF Global Research. “We have got more deflation coming in the housing sector, in capital assets, and it’s going to continue in commodities as well.”