Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Gold surges. Copper soars. Oil spikes. But no panic.

About these ads

Copper at $6,000 per ton. Gold at $600 an ounce. Oil persistently above $60 per barrel.

The last time these key commodities enjoyed such a concurrent boom, inflation ruled, Ronald Reagan was headed to the White House, and the economy was in the tank.

So do today's run-ups in metals and oil prices signal trouble ahead?

Quite the opposite, some economists say. In a humming world economy, supplies of some key raw materials are struggling to keep pace with demand. That's no surprise. Likewise, investors, seeking profits at a time when stocks and bonds lack luster, are plowing money into silver and gold.

That means higher prices for everything from jewelry to aluminum aircraft parts. But for now, these represent a burden of added costs, not a crisis, economists say. The one potential exception is oil.

"I think it's clear from the economic data that this is a global economic advance taking place," says Dennis Gartman, editor of the Gartman Letter on investing. In such an environment, commodity prices rise, he says, and "why should they not?"

Of key concern is energy, where prices are now high enough that a further spike could put global growth in jeopardy. Rebels in Nigeria or a standoff over Iran's nuclear program are scenarios that keep some analysts awake.

In the long run, higher prices will drive new production and the development for alternative fuels. But in the short run, the oil market is tight, with little spare capacity in the event of a new disruption. And whereas a temporary scarcity of copper or titanium would affect certain products, an energy shortfall directly affects every business and household.

Oil nears $70 a barrel

Oil prices have surged in recent days to nearly $70 a barrel, while US consumers are reeling under a government forecast of $2.62 or more per gallon of gasoline this summer. Yet for a year or more, the US and global economies have stayed buoyant in the face of rising oil costs. It would probably take a major price shock to change that, analysts say.

Even as energy prices help guide the economy's path, other commodities tend to react to economic strength or weakness. And lately, the pattern has been strength.


Page:   1   |   2   |   3

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.