Commodity prices hit by economic gloom

Oil and metal prices remained volatile today after a cocktail of gloomy economic data from across the world triggered a massive sell-off.

Commodity prices hit by economic gloom

Oil and metal prices remained volatile today after a cocktail of gloomy economic data from across the world triggered a massive sell-off.

An unexpected jump in unemployment claims in the US, a surprise fall in German factory orders and signs that China and India's economic growth engine was running out of steam saw commodity prices tumble yesterday.

In the final throes of trading in New York, oil prices fell 9% to 98 US dollars a barrel, dropping below the US$100 mark for the first time since mid-March, while silver plunged 8% and gold dropped 2.3%.

The sell-off appeared to stabilise as Asian traders took advantage of lower prices but prices wavered as the London session got under way today.

The slide on commodity markets follows a surge in prices since the start of the year.

Crude oil rocketed as turmoil spread across North Africa and the Middle East, restricting the flow from some of the world's key suppliers.

A fall in oil prices will ease inflationary pressures, including in the UK, where policymakers are struggling with a mix of sluggish growth and the high cost of living.

Commodity prices have been dropping all week but yesterday's slump came after the US Labour department said unemployment claims rose by 474,000 last week, after economists predicted a drop of 410,000.

Elsewhere, Germany's Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology revealed an unexpected drop in industrial orders.

The figures are particularly troubling as Germany has led the recovery in Europe by focusing on industrial production, shipping products such as cars to hungry emerging markets.

But fears over waning demand in emerging markets - most notably in China and India - also bore down on commodity markets.

China and India have been forced to raise interest rates to dampen runaway domestic consumption and surging inflation.

Matthew Nelson, a trader at Spreadex, said the markets were in for a "bit of a ride".

He said: "With silver falling around 30% from its recent all-time highs, and all other metals following a similar path due to global demand fears, traders are concerned about the near-term growth prospects of companies."

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