Thomson ReutersFile picture of employees working at a steel factory in DalianCommodities have had a rough ride for past 12 months, hit by falling demand from China as its economy slows.
The plunge in prices has hit miners and traders, such as Glencore,as well as entire economies, like Venezuela, who depend on a buoyant market.
But the last few weeks has seen prices spring back again, and oil popped up above $40 a barrel.
The volatility has traders and investment banking clients asking a lot of a questions.
HSBC analysts compiled the 12 most-asked questions about commodities from their clients. Added together, it makes a brilliant cheat sheet giving you everything you need to know about the state of the world economy, oil and commodity prices.
1. Have commodity prices passed the trough?
Answer: Probably yes, although metals prices might stay in the doldrums if Chinese growth disappoints.
2. Is the recent oil price rally sustainable?
Answer: Prices might fall soon, but not to the sub-$30 lows at the start of the year.
3. Why did iron ore prices surge recently and is the rise sustainable?
Answer: Seasonal buying in China, coupled with increased economic confidence helped boost prices but that’s unlikely to last.
4. How much is China the driver of commodity prices?
Answer: It’s important for metals such as iron, copper and zinc but not so much for oil, where the market is driven by suppliers.
5. How much has the US dollar changed commodity prices?
Answer: Quite a lot. The falling dollar has helped boost commodity prices.
6. How will the deferral of oil & gas projects affect the prices outlook?
Answer: Falling investment in the oil industry, especially in the US, will have a long-lasting effect on supply and therefore prices (which should start to increase.)
7. The US is going to start exporting LNG. What is that doing to the market balances and to the outlook for pricing?
Answer: It will boost supply of liquefied natural gas by 50% and oversupply the market.
8. How will lower LNG prices affect the Australian LNG story?
Answer: Australia is about to overtake Qatar as the world’s biggest LNG producer, so the money should still roll in.
9. Dairy prices are at low levels. Will a supply retreat lift prices?
Answer: Not so much – global demand is still falling.
10. How have recent movements in the BRL affected the outlook for sugar?
Answer: The depreciation of the Brazilian real is good for producers, as it makes their product relatively cheaper, so they’ll make more of it.
11. Palm oil has been oversupplied. How long before this is worked off?
Answer: Pretty soon, and prices should increase by 10%.
12. Will recent climate agreements lift or lower commodity prices?
Answer: Possibly but it depends on how quickly the reforms are implemented.
The HSBC analysts answering the questions were: Paul Bloxham, Gordon Gray, Thomas Hilboldt, Alexandre Falcao, Jigar Mistry, Wai-Shin Chan, Shishir Singh, Chris Leung and Daniel Smith.