Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Commodities From Gold to Grains Rally as Russia Faces Isolation

Maize hybrids from an Agricol (Pty) Ltd stand on display at Grain SA’s Harvest Day in Bothaville, on May 2019. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Commodities from wheat and gold to aluminum rallied in a jittery start to the week, as traders grapple 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 aluminum and nickel also surged. Bullion — a haven in times of international tensions — climbed more than 2%.The U.S. and a sweep of European governments agreed to penalize Russia’s central bank and exclude others from the SWIFT messaging system that’s used for trillions of dollars worth of global transactions. The intensifying tensions adds to deep uncertainties for commodities, which have been roiled by Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.

“We expect the price of consumed commodities that Russia is a key producer of to rally from here,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wrote in an emailed note. “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.”

Russian and Ukraine together account for nearly a quarter of global wheat exports and a fifth of corn sales. Russia is a major supplier for a swathe of commodities including aluminum, nickel, palladium, oil and gas.

Trouble at Sea

As the war intensifies, the risk of logistical turmoil is also 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 aluminum 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%.

Aluminum rose as much as 3% in London while nickel advanced. 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 rose more than 1%.

Bullion Boost

The crisis in Ukraine has also bolstered gold as investors seek safe havens. The latest Western sanctions prompted a pledge from Russia’s country’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 $1,910.48 at 10:41 a.m. Singapore time.


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