Commodity Analysis

Never-ending trade war takes a toll on commodities

Pratish Narayanan | Updated on August 04, 2019 Published on August 04, 2019

If Trump’s latest threat translates into action, it could hit consumers badly

The US-China trade war is sparking so much fear over demand that even those parts of the commodity world that aren’t in the direct firing line are getting burned.

Oil had its biggest sell-off in four years on Thursday after US President Donald Trump brought an abrupt end to a truce forged with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in June. That’s even though Beijing has spared crude from levies. Meanwhile, crop markets, industrial metals and shares of agricultural traders — already roiled by the year-long tit-for-tat tariff spat — got another whipping.

For investors, the threat posed by the trade war to global economic health — and in turn, consumption of commodities — is trumping everything else.

Trump announced on Thursday that he would impose a 10 per cent tariff on a further $300 billion in Chinese imports, including smartphones, laptops and children’s clothing, from September 1. Beijing has vowed to respond.

Copper on the London Metal Exchange slumped 2.9 per cent on Friday on its way to the worst week since August 2018. Nickel, lead and tin also fell.

In agricultural markets, cotton and sugar declined, while crop markets slumped for the week, during which wheat, corn and soyabean futures fell to the lowest levels in months.

And while an outbreak of African swine fever in China has resulted in the death of millions of hogs, prompting expectations for record meat shipments to the nation, purchases of US meat have lagged behind other countries such as Brazil due to tariffs that made American imports too expensive.

American hog futures dropped about 17 per cent on the week — the most since July last year.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate and global market Brent crude slumped over 7 per cent on Thursday after Trump tweeted his tariff threat. Bloomberg

Published on August 04, 2019
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