Energy: Oil prices have been hit by several headwinds, starting with mixed economic data from China, whose crude oil imports contracted by just over 1% year-on-year in February. Secondly, it was Jerome Powell's statements that weighed on the prices of risky assets, including oil. The Federal Reserve Chairman has hardened his tone by preparing investors for more rate hikes in order to curb inflation. U.S. weekly inventories recorded their first decline of the year. In terms of prices, Northern European Brent and US WTI prices fell to USD 81.80 and USD 75.70 per barrel respectively. Related to natural gas in Europe, the Rotterdam TTF is treading water at around EUR 50/MWh.
Metals: Base metal prices also took a downward path last week. The latest annual meeting of the Chinese parliament did not generate any particular excitement. Traders were certainly expecting the announcement of new stimulus packages that would boost demand for industrial metals, but this did not happen. In addition, Beijing reported a 10% year-on-year contraction in copper imports in the first two months of the year, further undermining financial sentiment. A ton of copper is trading at around USD 8860 on the LME, compared to USD 22700 for nickel and USD 2300 for aluminum. Gold, on the other hand, has recovered to USD 1880. China (again), has once again increased its gold holdings with a purchase of 25 tons last month. In addition, the return of risk aversion favors safe-haven assets.
Agricultural products: Grain prices are down again this week, despite warnings from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture, which expects a sharp decline in crop production due to abnormally dry weather. In Chicago, a bushel of wheat is trading lower at 670 cents, as is a bushel of corn at 610 cents.