Wednesday, February 24, 2021 /05:00 AM / By Proshare Research/ Header Image Credit: EcoGraphics
The world economy in the year 2020 experienced a lot of downs and few ups due to the novel coronavirus which broke out at the end of 2019 and spread throughout the world affecting virtually all sectors of the economy including the commodities market.
Asides from equities and fixed income markets, the commodities market is another asset class that investors find appealing and relatively profitable to invest in. The commodities market can be dissected into three sections - energy, metals, and agriculture.
The Nigerian government in an attempt to drive productivity and stay afloat during the pandemic enacted various policies. These policies had varying degrees of impact on the overall economy, equities, fixed income, and the commodity market. Some of the policies that affected the commodities market are the ban on maize importation which led to hike in the price of poultry feeds and an increase in the price of eggs, the closure of the Nigerian border etc (see Table 29).
Table 29: Government Polices Enacted in 2020 and Impacts on Nigerian Commodities
Table 30: Factors that Affected the Nigerian Commodities Market and their Impacts
By the end of January, the oil price had fallen as low as $57/bbl from $68/bbl during the first week of January as the coronavirus outbreak started spreading from China to other parts of the world. The spread of the virus had a massive impact on the demand for oil around the world due to large declines in airline, car, shipping, manufacturing, and trucking traffic as there were lockdowns and movement restrictions in many parts of the world. In February and March, oil price dropped by -12.27% and -49.81% respectively (see Table 31).
History was made in April as oil futures turned negative which meant that oil producers were paying buyers to take the commodity off their hands over fears that storage capacity could run out. To prop up prices that had collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia, a group known as OPEC+ agreed in April that it would cut supply by 9.7m barrels per day during May-June. This output pact agreed by OPEC and OPEC+ achieved its goal and in May, oil price inched up by +43.12% settling at $41.02/bbl in June from as low as $21/bbl in April. With oil prices steadily rising after the record cuts, OPEC and non-OPEC allies agreed to scale back the cuts to 7.7m barrels per day in August.
In October 2020, brent crude oil slumped to its lowest price level since May 2020, as new lockdown measures came into force across Europe and some parts of the United States of America (USA) to fight the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. OPEC and non-OPEC allies met in December to discuss 2021 oil output policies given the weak global oil demand outlook. On Thursday, December 3rd, 2020, OPEC, and Russia agreed to slightly ease their deep oil output cuts from January by 500,000 barrels per day(bpd). The increase implies OPEC and non-OPEC allies would move to cut production by 7.2mbpd or 7% of global demand from January compared with the 7.7mbpd agreed on in August 2020.
Table 31: Brent M-o-M Performance (Jan- Dec 2020)
Fiscal and External Break-Even Oil Price
Fiscal Break-Even Oil Price
The majority of Middle-East and North African countries dependent on oil revenues will be adversely affected by the fall in crude price. According to the IMF's projections for 2021, the top five countries (5) under MENAP with the highest fiscal break-even oil price are Iran, Algeria, Libya, Oman, and Bahrain require a fiscal break-even oil price of US$395.3 per barrel, US$135.2 per barrel, US$124.4 per barrel, US$109.5 per barrel and US$83.4 per barrel respectively (see Table 32).
Table 32: Fiscal Break-even Oil Price
External Break-Even Oil Price
According to IMF projections for 2021, the top five countries under MENAP with the highest external breakeven oil prices are Algeria, Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman with an external breakeven oil price of $105.7, $81.5, $74.3, $61.9 and $56.3 per barrel respectively (see Table 33).
Table 33: External Break-even Oil Price
Production Cuts Dilemma
With oil prices likely falling during 2021, OPEC and non-OPEC allies will subsequently meet to discuss lifting output as a surging virus smothers the global energy demand recovery. Russia's breakeven oil price sits slightly above $40 per barrel, which is half of Saudi Arabia's. The two heavyweights, alongside OPEC and its allies, will want to be cautious in loosening the cuts too quickly, as there could be a threat of a price setback resulting from oversupply. But if too cautious and prices rise significantly, a rift could arise and U.S. shale oil production could rise again.
The bullion has gone through a rollercoaster year. Typically, the bullion thrives in uncertainty. COVID-19 and the tumbling returns on equities and fixed income assets have nudged investors towards the precious metal for a haven. The lowest it recorded was in February at $1585.69/t.oz. By the end of Q1, gold prices had risen by +2.68% while in April, gold prices rose by +4.44% as worries over a surge in fresh COVID-19 cases infections globally dented investor optimism about a swift economic rebound. Investors took positions in gold futures to safeguard their investments. Gold prices steadied and remained bullish in May and June as the prices increased by +1.76% and +2.37% respectively.
In August 2020, gold prices hit a record high of over $2000/t.oz during the first week of August. The uptick in metal prices reflects investor's strategic holding of alternative assets to hedge downturns in the value of currencies previously considered to be 'safe-havens' of value. Investors fleeing to gold believe it would provide the necessary stability to their portfolios and insulate their assets from coronavirus-induced global market uncertainty.
In November 2020, gold prices slumped after a positive development regarding the vaccine was announced by BioNTech, Pfizer, and Moderna. Furthermore, the strengthening of the US dollar also pressured gold prices (see Table 34).
Table 34: Gold M-o-M Performance (Jan- Dec 2020)
Silver as a soft metal showed a stellar performance in August 2020 as demand for the metal surged. The metal outperformed gold as a hidden value investment opportunity. Year-to-date growth in the value of silver outstripped growth in the value of gold. Silver recorded a year-to-date change of +44.93%, outshining the yellow metal (see Table 35).
Table 35: Gold and Silver Year-to-Date Performance
The sizzling run by Silver since August could be attributed to the recovery in industrial operations as silver is used in electronic parts and the production of solar panels.
Another reason for the rise in the value of silver was the depreciation of the US dollar against the currencies of the United States of America's trading partners, rising domestic US inflation, and the collapse in real interest rates, pushing investors towards the bullion.
Table 36: Silver M-o-M Performance (Jan 2020- Dec 2020)
Another reason for the increased focus on silver is volatility in the metal market. The silver market was more volatile than the gold market. For investors looking to profit from a sudden increase in prices, silver's additional volatility is advantageous because more volatility means larger spikes in the commodity's price and stronger potential investor returns.
Palladium is a metal used in catalytic converters in the automobile industry. In February, the price of palladium grew by +14.37% and in March and April, the price fell drastically by -13.42% and -15.34% respectively. This massive drop was caused by the pandemic as there were lockdowns and movement restrictions which hit the automobile industry hard as we see some top automobile firms laying off their workers as car sales plunged in some countries such as Germany and U.K.
UK car sales plunged by 97% according to the BBC in April. The plunge was the lowest level since 1946. Furthermore, reuters reported a plunge of 51.8% in European new cars during March. These declines reduced the demand for palladium as car production reduced drastically which in turn led to the fall in prices of the metal.
The prices of palladium inched up by +1.12% in May and dropped by -2.87% in June as lockdown and restrictions were lifted and economic activities resumed in some countries. However, in the second quarter, prices stabilized and in November it reached their highest at $2428.17/t.oz since the slump in June (see Table 37).
Table 37: Palladium M-o-M Performance (Jan 2020- Dec. 2020)
In June 2019, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire, which together produce about 65% of the world's cocoa but get only about $6bn each year from the $100bn global chocolate industry, joined forces in a bid to exert greater pricing power by agreeing on a price floor of $2,600 per tonne of cocoa produced and a living income differential of $400 per tonne.
Cocoa prices plunged by -2% and -17.85% in February and March, this was due to overproduction, therefore both Ghana and Ivory Coast were hit hard by this glut. In April and May, the prices picked up and it grew by +7.05% and +0.62% respectively as there was a rainfall below-average in Ivory Coast which caused supply shortage while the black pod disease affected cocoa output in Ghana. There was a decline of -1.76% in July.
To further tackle poverty among farmers, and increase market share in the global chocolate industry, the cartel decided in September 2020, to raise the fixed farm gate price by 21% for the main crop of the 2020/2021 season starting October 1st, 2020.
Prices closed negative in July, but there was a reversal in August and September, as the prices appreciated by +8.3% and +2.4% respectively. Furthermore, prices dipped by -11.31% in October as the price hike in Ghana and Ivory Coast failed to support global cocoa prices. However, prices jumped by +18.2% in November (see Table 38).
Table 38: Cocoa M-o-M Performance (Jan 2020- Dec 2020)
Wheat prices declined by -0.45% and -5.19% in January and February respectively as we saw it pick up the following month by 8.81%. By April it was bullish, as prices dropped by -9.58% due to bumper harvest, and surge in distribution through the Public Distribution System (PDS), and weak global demand. In May, Prices rose by +0.82% due to demand for food staples while in June it dropped by -8.64%.
In July, the price spiked, with an impressive growth of +11.67% because of growing global demand and increased stockpiling. The price dipped marginally in September but inched up in October, November, and December as the demand for Russian wheat increased (see Table 39).
Table 39: Wheat M-o-M Performance (Jan 2020 - Dec 2020)
It was a bearish trend for corn from January through April. In February, it dropped by -3.41%, while in March the prices dropped further by -6.04% and its highest plunge came in April, slumping by -7.95% due to the global supply glut which resulted from Bumper Harvest. In May, prices inched up by +2.28% while in June it declined by -2%.
Through the second quarter of the year, Corn prices maintained an upward trend. hitting its peak growth in August 2020 at +9.86%. The bullish trend in Corn was a result of the aggressive buying of U.S. Corn by China as they ramp up their imports of the grains to meet their target under the Phase one trade deal with the United States. (see Table 40).
Table 40: Corn M-o-M Performance (Jan 2020- Dec 2020)
In February, sugar prices dropped by -2.81%, while in March it fell drastically by -21.83% due to lower demand amid the coronavirus outbreak and the impact of declining oil prices on ethanol. In May, the price ticked up by +1.68% while in June it grew by +9.26% as drought persisted in Thailand. Coronavirus outbreak affected India's sugar production and logistics at Brazil's port in Santos as ships piled up to load sugar.
Sugar prices inched up by +1.59% and +5.45% in August and September respectively following renewed consumer demand. Sugar continued its bullishness in the following months, with an impressive +7.40% growth in October on strong Chinese demand, maintaining its upward trend in November and December (see Table 41).
Table 41: Sugar M-o-M Performance (Jan- Dec)
Illustration 47: Commodities Outlook for 2021
Downloadable Version of Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021, Understanding the Mega Trends of a Crucial Year for an Economy Report (PDF)
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