Do you know among the commodities metals were the best performing ones in 2009? If not, remember that not only gold other metals also performed extremely well in 2009 riding on hopes for a global economic recovery and fears of runaway inflation.
And, the bull run in metal is not to end soon, it will continue for 2010 also. Demand from emerging economies remains strong while developed nations are catching up with them as far as metals are concerned.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, while commodity prices rebounded sharply from lows early in the year, most closed well below records set before the economic crisis began in 2008, underpinning the reality that the recovery has just begun to gather momentum. The Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index added nearly 19% to 117.24 in 2009, about 41% off its peak in 2008, the paper reported.
Leading the way in 2009 were base metals. Copper, which has many industrial uses, more than doubled, soaring 139%. It ended the year at $3.3275 per pound but still 18% shy of record prices hit in 2008. Lead, which is used in car batteries, also more than doubled, to $2,416 a metric tonne, followed by zinc, which was up 125%, and aluminum, gaining 50%.
Precious metals reaped smaller gains but stole the limelight. Gold was up 24% for the year to $1,095.20 per troy ounce at Comex, the metals division of CME Group. It set 27 exchange records in the past 12 months amid waves of buying from funds and individual investors seeking a haven against inflation and a dropping dollar. But it is still 52% below its inflation-adjusted high of $2,300 dating from 1980. Silver surged 49% to $16.822 per troy ounce.
Platinum and palladium - primarily used by auto makers in catalytic converters -jumped 56% and 117%, respectively. Their gains came on the prospect that car makers will sharply increase their production in 2010, as US auto sales improved in recent months, along with record sales in emerging markets such as China and Brazil.
Overall, base metals were fueled particularly by Chinese demand, which comprises 43% of the world's total and gained 27% from a year earlier. Take China out of the equation, and global metals demand fell 9% in 2009.
The outlook for individual base metals will depend on how quickly producers can respond to rising demand, said the paper. Demand for base metals is likely to get further support as Western manufacturers start to rebuild their inventories next year. Many companies are running low on their stocks of raw materials, as warehouses are filled with unsold finished goods and credit remains tight.
For 2010, robust economic growth in the emerging markets continues to be an ever greater pull on the world's resources, Goldman Sachs Group analysts wrote in a research note. Goldman expects a small deficit to emerge in the global copper market in 2010, mainly due to robust demand growth from power and construction sectors in China and India.
Aluminum and zinc are likely to see a glut because of years of excessive capacity expansions, in spite of a budding recovery in the US construction market. Goldman expects prices of aluminum and zinc to retreat 4% and 8%, respectively, over the next three months.
Gold was the hottest commodity in 2009. Central banks in India and Russia bought hundreds of tonnes of gold to diversify their foreign reserves, making central banks, as a whole, a net buyer of gold in 2009 after decades of selling.
Retail, or individual, investors around the world stocked up on gold bullion and flocked into gold-backed exchange-traded funds to preserve their net worth.
The precious metal, which like other commodities is traded in dollar terms, reflected the decline in the US currency earlier in the year. Gold prices retreated as the dollar rose late in the year. The gold frenzy also abated as some gold bulls decided to take profits, leading to a 10% retreat in prices in December. Silver lost 13% at the same time.
Still, the forces driving the gold rally are temporary, such as fiscal stimulus packages and central banks' easy-money policies. In 2010, analysts say, the primary risk for gold is an earlier-than-expected increase in interest rates, especially in the US, if the economy strengthens. In early 1980s, a drastic tightening by the Fed sent gold into a decade-long bear market.
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