Commodities from wheat and gold to aluminium rallied in a jittery start to the week, as traders grappled with a fraught geopolitical environment and an array of supply risks triggered by war in Ukraine.
Wheat rose near its highest level in more than 13 years on Monday, while aluminium hit a fresh record and nickel surged. Bullion — a haven in times of international tensions — climbed more than 2%.
The US and a sweep of European governments agreed to penalise Russia’s central bank and exclude others from the SWIFT messaging system that’s used for trillions of dollars worth of global transactions. The tougher restrictions add to deep uncertainties for commodities, which have been roiled by Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
“Barring a breakthrough in peace negotiations, we believe this leaves commodity prices having to rally sharply as we see demand destruction as now the only significant remaining balancing mechanism,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wrote in an emailed note.
While metals and agricultural commodities aren’t in the direct crosshairs of western policymakers, prices are surging as investors bet that the latest measures could snarl payments to suppliers, and prompt banks to further curtail financing for purchases of Russian goods.
Investors across financial markets are simultaneously gauging the rising threat to global economic growth from the biggest security crisis in Europe’s post-war history.
Russia and Ukraine together account for a quarter of global wheat exports and a fifth of corn sales. Russia is a major supplier for a swathe of commodities including aluminium, nickel, palladium, oil and gas.
Trouble at sea
As the war intensifies, the risk of logistical turmoil is rising fast across commodities markets, with insurers either refusing to offer cover for vessels sailing into the Black Sea, or demanding huge premiums to do so. Turkey was the biggest single buyer of Russian aluminium in 2020, ahead of China and Japan, according to UN Comtrade data.
In grains markets, ports in Ukraine are closed and traders say they’re staying away from Russian grain. Some exporters can’t agree to contracts at the moment because they don’t know if they will be able to fulfill them as the situation evolves, Bloomberg reported.
Wheat futures in Chicago surged as much as 8.7% to $9.34 3/4 a bushel, while corn climbed 5% and soybeans rose 3.9%. Palm oil in Kuala Lumpur gained 5.1% at one point but remained below a record high.
Aluminium rose as much as 4% in London to a fresh record, while palladium climbed as much as 7.8% on concerns over potential supply disruptions. Russia produces about 40% of the palladium mined globally. Silver and platinum were little changed.
Iron ore exports from the region will be affected by any prolonged military campaign in Ukraine, Navigate Commodities managing director Atilla Widnell wrote in a note. The steelmaking ingredient gained 3.2% in Singapore.
The crisis in Ukraine has bolstered gold as investors seek safe havens. The latest Western sanctions prompted a pledge from Russia’s central bank to resume purchases of the precious metal that have been on pause for nearly two years.
“Gold has only one trajectory at present, and that’s upward,” said Gavin Wendt, senior resource analyst at MineLife Pty. “Already well-supported on the back of inflation and interest-rate uncertainty, the political contagion with Russia has supercharged gold and it looks set to maintain its positive momentum.”
Spot gold rose as much 2.2% to $1 930.85 an ounce, before trading at $1 909.57 by 12:55 p.m. Singapore time.