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Commodity Market Mischief: Iron and Oil

Commodity Market Mischief: Iron and Oil

Courtesy of New Deal 2.0, by  Joe Costello

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FT has some good pieces on how we’re now innovating the iron ore markets. It was one of the last commodity hold-outs that now falls into the hands of the traders. After all, you may never know when this year’s crop of ore might go bad in the field or something right? Hard to keep steady prices without someone taking a bath with such a perishable commodity, which is why it needs to be trading 24 hours a day. FT writes:

That process reached its conclusion on Tuesday when miners and steelmakers ditched the system of annual contracts and long negotiations that had been in place since the 1960s for new short-term deals based on the spot market.

“This is a momentous occasion,” says Melinda Moore, a commodities analyst at Credit Suisse in London. “The industry is revolutionising the way iron ore is priced.”

The revolution comes as the economic and geopolitical importance of commodities is rising because of the large needs of countries such as China and other developing countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The change is not, however, a new phenomenon in commodities markets. Iron ore is simply following other examples, such as the transformation in the crude oil pricing system in the late 1970s, aluminium in the early 1980s and, more recently, thermal coal in the early 2000s.

Yes, another revolution for Wall Street or at least another killing:

Banks and brokers are gearing up to exploit the new iron ore pricing system by developing a multibillion-dollar derivatives market similar to the ones that exist for commodities such as oil, aluminium and coal.

As the 40-year-old pricing system based on annual contracts is replaced with short-term deals linked to the spot market, analysts forecast that the iron ore swaps market will grow to $200bn by 2020 from $300m today.

Why, I bet those derivative markets in oil have been responsible for 2, maybe 3 more barrels of oil over time. Which gets us to Mr. Obama’s expected though no less unconscionable decision on offshore oil, the cliff’s straight ahead, we just keep barreling forward, pedal to the metal.


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