How the commodities supercycle will foment unrest around the world

Commodities, including metals, energy and agricultural goods have seen prices climb steadily. With many societies are already on edge, we could see a new round of social unrest around the world.

Are we in a new commodity supercycle? asks The Economist. Many raw materials enjoyed strong gains last year, with copper prices up by more than 25% since the start of 2020 and iron ore surging by 75%. China responded to Covid-19 with an infrastructure-led stimulus plan that turned the country into a “voracious importer” of industrial metals and food. 

As demand spiked, supply contracted; Covid-19 disruption meant Chilean copper mines and Brazilian iron ore excavators were unable to operate at full capacity. Even energy prices are perking up now: a cold winter has sent Asian liquefied natural gas prices to a record high. Bank of America analysts think the trend will continue, notes Zero Hedge. It says that a cocktail of stimulus, reflation and economic reopening should ensure continued robust commodity demand. Copper could end the year at $9,500 a tonne, up from $7,973 now.

Surging food prices are “one of the most dangerous features” of the latest commodity surge, says Albert Edwards of Société Générale in a note. Grain prices have risen more than 50% in just six months. Droughts in South America have worsened the shortages. As in 2011, a central bank “fire-hose” of monetary stimulus appears to be pumping up agricultural markets. The world’s poor might be about to fall victim to a “price momentum” bubble in basic foodstuffs as speculators pile in again.  

Soya bean and rice prices have also taken off, says Eoin Treacy on fullertreacymoney.com. Corn futures have hit a seven-year high. The 2011 Arab Spring was sparked in large part by “the high cost of bread in Tunisia” during the last major agricultural price surge. Societies are already on edge. Now rising food prices could herald a new round of social unrest.

Recommended

Chase Coleman: star hedgie hits the panic button
People

Chase Coleman: star hedgie hits the panic button

Chase Coleman got off to a sizzling start in the hedge-fund industry and became one of the biggest winners of the tech bull market. His fall from grac…
28 May 2022
How the West can win Putin’s war on food
Global Economy

How the West can win Putin’s war on food

The West could easily make up the shortfall if it let the free market rip, says Matthew Lynn.
28 May 2022
Which companies will lose the most from the energy windfall tax?
Energy stocks

Which companies will lose the most from the energy windfall tax?

The government’s new energy windfall tax has muddied the waters for investors and companies alike. Rupert Hargreaves explains how it might affect some…
27 May 2022
The MoneyWeek Podcast with Russell Napier at the Library of Mistakes
Investment strategy

The MoneyWeek Podcast with Russell Napier at the Library of Mistakes

Merryn talks to Russell Napier about Edinburgh’s Library of Mistakes, the age of debt and financial repression, plus why he has never invested in Chin…
27 May 2022

Most Popular

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has fallen hard. But is now the time to buy?
Investment trusts

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has fallen hard. But is now the time to buy?

After a spectacular couple of decades, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has fallen by almost 45% so far this year. Rupert Hargreaves asks if no…
26 May 2022
The world’s hottest housing markets are faltering – is the UK next?
House prices

The world’s hottest housing markets are faltering – is the UK next?

As interest rates rise, house prices in the world’s most overpriced markets are starting to fall. The UK’s turn will come, says John Stepek. But will …
23 May 2022
Is it time to pick up growth stock bargains yet?
Investment strategy

Is it time to pick up growth stock bargains yet?

If you’re thinking of picking up some bargains from the tech stock crash, beware – there are still plenty of “growth traps” out there. John Stepek exp…
26 May 2022