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Commodities crumble again as China alarm bells sink metals

Energy, metals and agriculture are showing losses.

by Grant Smith, Eddie van der Walt and Mark Burton 

Stocks and bitcoin may be having a stellar year, but one corner of global markets hasn’t shared the good fortune. 

The Bloomberg Commodities Index has fallen 4.1% in the past month, putting it on course for its sixth year of losses out of seven. 

The big question is whether the selloff is simply a snapback after a frenzied rally or the warning of a weaker economy. One bad sign for commodities going forward are expectations for a slower growth in China. The country’s pollution cleanup and a cooling property market will damp investment into 2018, according to a Bloomberg survey last week.

Here’s a few takeaways from this month’s selloff:

Breadth

Energy, metals and agriculture are showing losses. Nickel has been hit hardest recently as the fever over electric car batteries wore off. Oil traders took profits after the OPEC meeting and oversupply continued to be a headache for grain traders.

China

China is still the big swing factor in commodity markets and metals traders are starting to price the possibility that slower growth will mean less demand. 

The nation’s fixed-asset investment in infrastructure will grow 12% next year, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey, down from almost 20% in the first 10 months this year. Copper has born the brunt of the nervousness and prices are near a two-month low.

Rate Worries

Expectations of higher U.S. interest rates are weighing on gold, with the market treating a December increase as a near certainty. 

“The rate hike is now looming and people are suddenly realizing that gold may not be the most attractive long position at the moment,” said David Govett, head of precious metals trading at Marex Spectron Group Ltd. in London. “People’s memories are short and their pockets not so deep.”

OPEC Over

In energy, oil prices have started to slip after the OPEC meeting. Some traders are speculating that OPEC’s decision to keep production cuts may backfire by provoking a fresh wave of U.S. shale-oil. Prices also declined after American gasoline inventories jumped more twice the amount expected in the week to Dec. 1 because of a seasonal slow-down in consumption.

To contact the reporters on this story: Grant Smith in London at [email protected]; Eddie van der Walt in London at [email protected]; Mark Burton in London at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at [email protected]

Tony Barrett

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P

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