Commodities

Commodity market increased slightly in January

Commodities increased in January due to supply worries in livestock and to weather fundamentals supporting the energy sector.

The Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return performance was positive overall for the month, with nine out of 22 index constituents trading higher. 
 
Livestock was the best performing sector, up 4.32 per cent, with both lean hogs and live cattle ending the month higher.  The USDA's January livestock report revealed the number of cattle on feed at the start of the year was down 5.4 per cent compared to January 2013. 
 
Energy ended the month 3.40 per cent higher, led by natural gas. Crude oil and petroleum products declined, however, led lower by gasoline, as the record cold and wet weather for much of the US depressed driving demand. 
 
Precious metals increased 1.92 per cent, led by gold, as weaker equities and capital outflows from emerging economies boosted the metal's safe-haven appeal. 
 
Agriculture declined slightly, down 0.46 per cent, due to mixed returns from sector components. 
 
Industrial metals was the worst performing sector, down 4.91 per cent. China's manufacturing activity worsened in January as output and new order growth weakened, according to the latest surveys.
 
Nelson Louie, global head of commodities in Credit Suisse's asset management business, says: "The outlook for growth looked far more stable at the start of 2014, with fewer identifiable risks than seen in previous years.  However, with the Federal Reserve's move to begin tapering its monetary stimulus, combined with weaker data from both the US and China, it is clear that risks remain.  We continue to believe cyclical improvement in global growth will be paced by better performance in developed market economies as Europe exits recession and the US endures lessened fiscal drag.  This implies that the excess of growth in the emerging market universe over the developed market economies will be narrower than it has been for the last several years."
 
Christopher Burton, senior portfolio manager for the Credit Suisse Total Commodity Return Strategy, says: "As monetary policy continues to normalize in the US, we expect correlations between commodities and traditional asset classes to continue to decrease and individual commodities to continue to be increasingly driven by fundamental factors.  Weather played a key role in driving returns for January, with the polar vortex leading to extreme cold and wet temperatures in parts of the US, supporting natural gas.  However, it also led to extreme dry and warm weather in other areas, including Brazil, supporting sugar and coffee later in the month.  Weather may continue to play a key role driving commodity returns in 2014, should extreme patterns continue."

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