Commodities

By far the most important event in the financial markets this week was the unexpected release of oil stocks by the IEA, which almost immediately reduced the global oil price by about 8 per cent. The motivation for this intervention might well have been Washington politics but, if the fall in the oil price persists, it will have a very useful effect on global economic activity, just when it is most needed.

Former US vice president Dick Cheney used to describe the release of oil stocks by the IEA as a “nuclear option”, which could almost never be used. The FT’s commodities editor Javier Blas says that it is now viewed as a “smart bomb” aimed mainly at oil speculators. But others, including this FT editorial, see the IEA’s tactics as pointless or self-destructive. So is it just a damp squib? Read more

Commodities have been the best performing asset class since the Fed announced QE2 last August. Even after the fall of 10 per cent seen this month, commodity prices are still 29 per cent higher than they were when Mr Bernanke spoke at Jackson Hole on QE2. But this has started to slow the growth rate of the world economy, raising doubts about the sustainability of the rally in all risk assets. So where are commodity prices headed next? Read more

This week, the dramatic events in Egypt failed to unsettle the global financial markets. Not only do investors believe that Egypt itself is not critical for global oil prices, they also seem to believe that there will be relatively little contagion to the more important oil producing states elsewhere in the Middle East. Read more

The era in which central bankers could apparently do no wrong ended emphatically in 2008. Since then, they have attracted plenty of criticism as they have adopted a succession of unconventional policies to stabilise the world economy and financial system. Read more

Commodities are very volatile investments, which may be appropriate only for professional investors. Like all other asset classes, timing is what matters most Read more