Omicron puts demand back in the spotlight

We were already downbeat on the outlook for most commodity prices in 2022, not least because we thought that prices had lost touch with demand fundamentals. The risk of Omicron-related effects on demand just adds weight to our view. In view of the wider interest, we are also sending this Commodities Overview Update to clients of all our Commodities services.  
Caroline Bain Chief Commodities Economist
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Commodities Weekly Wrap

A good start to a bad year for commodity prices

Most commodity prices increased this week, with coal prices leading the pack on the back of Indonesia’s ban on coal exports this month. That said, we don’t see commodity prices rising for much longer. Indeed, Chinese imports of most raw materials fell back in December, with an especially sharp decline in imports of industrial metals. We think this is a sign of things to come in 2022. Weaker Chinese growth is one of the main reasons why we expect most prices to fall this year. Looking ahead, prices of energy and energy-intensive commodities could well be swayed by tensions between Russia and Ukraine and its allies. If tensions continue to build, this could lead to sharp swings in the price of European natural gas in particular. High gas prices in Europe have already led to the curbing of some energy-intensive metals production, including aluminium and zinc. On the data front, China will release Q4 GDP figures on Monday, which we expect to show weaker y/y growth. OPEC will also publish its December oil supply numbers on Tuesday. We expect another month of below-target output.

14 January 2022

Commodities Update

Prices to come off the boil in 2022

After a stellar run in 2020-21, we expect the prices of most commodities to ease back this year as economic activity slows, notably in China, and supply bottlenecks start to ease. Drop-In: Neil Shearing will host an online panel of our senior economists to answer your questions and update on macro and markets this Thursday, 13th January (11:00 ET/16:00 GMT). Register for the latest on everything from Omicron to the Fed to our key calls for 2022. Registration here.

13 January 2022

Commodities Economics Chart Book

Omicron risks receding; energy still in short supply

Two themes have dominated commodity markets at the turn of the year: the ongoing shortage of energy commodities and the global rise in cases of COVID-19. On the former, we think that shortages will start to ease meaningfully later this year, which will weigh on the prices of both energy commodities and other commodities with energy-intensive production processes. However, we think the oil market may be dismissing the Omicron-related hit to demand a little too readily. After all, demand in the US has already softened significantly, and China has imposed new restrictions as part of its ‘zero-COVID’ strategy. As a result, the hit to oil demand may be larger and longer-lived than is currently priced into markets, which could lead to a sharp reversal in oil prices in the near term.

7 January 2022

More from Caroline Bain

Commodities Update

The slump in the Baltic Dry Index is all about iron ore

Some commentators have pointed to the slump in the Baltic Dry Index as a sign that shipping bottlenecks are easing. But we think it is more a symptom of lower Chinese steel output and plunging iron ore prices.

25 November 2021

Metals Data Response

Global Steel Production (Oct.)

Global steel production contracted again in y/y terms in October, mainly owing to lower Chinese production. China’s output may rebound a little in the coming months as power rationing has come to an end, but weaker domestic demand will act as a disincentive.

23 November 2021

Energy Data Response

US Weekly Petroleum Status Report

The latest weekly data show falling crude and petroleum product inventories and a jump in implied demand. The strength in demand is somewhat surprising given the rise in gasoline prices, but we suspect that demand will ease back in the coming weeks as the price rise bites.

17 November 2021
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