Saturday, October 14, 2006

Commodity dichotomy

Sorry for the dumb post title, but it just came to me. There is some important commodities related information to share, so please read on.

The Bear Mountain Bull has highlighted a divergence currently taking place in the commodity sector. It seems that while commodity indexes based on futures contracts are down sharply in recent months, spot commodity indexes are hitting new highs.

See the BMB site for more on this; you might find more to like while browsing their blog (there's some good market commentary, personal finance info, and general observations on the economy).

FT recently reported on changes in the copper market that have come about because of large investment demand. In "Structural shifts in copper market", Chris Flood writes:

New institutional funds flowing into the copper market have resulted in a historic shift in the relationship between prices and stocks, according to Bloomsbury Mineral Economics (BME), the metals consultancy.

The copper market has developed into a hybrid that is part industrial metals and part investment vehicle.

Investment demand has created a “virtual deficit” in the futures market, equivalent to 250,000 tonnes, which acts as a more powerful influence on prices than any slight rise in inventories.

However, BME stressed there was no speculative bubble in copper prices. This was shown by the narrowing in the spread between cash and three-month prices that purely speculative flows would have increased.

Instead, copper’s price behaviour had been altered by “remorseless” pressure from investment buying, mainly via commodity index funds that hold about $105bn in futures, equivalent to about 600,000 tonnes of the red metal.

I guess this news also falls into the same category/theme. Increasing interest in commodities and commodity futures have led to increased investment, and a resulting change in time-honored patterns.