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The Week Ahead for Commodities + Trading Levels for August 15th 2023

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The Week Ahead

by Mark O’Brien, Senior Broker



As the duel between the United States and China continues, seemingly on several fronts, a new sign emerged the first half of the year: China’s imports to the U.S. accounted for the smallest percentage of goods arriving here in 20 years.  Just 13.3% of all imports to the U.S. came from China the first half of 2023.  Compare that to its peak of 21.6% for all of 2017 and its low point of 12.1% in 2013.  The downturn is not due to any list of stand-out products or industries, nor has any country or small number of countries jumped up to import a bigger share of anything.  Rather, slow-moving supply chain shifts across dozens of industries and nations are driving the trend.  When the dollar values of exports and imports are combined, Mexico is now America’s no. 1 trading partner, followed by Canada, pushing China to third place.


Last Thursday, the Labor Department reported the consumer-price index increased 0.2% in July, the same as in June. That is down sharply year-over-year looking at the 1.2% gain in June 2022.  If the downward trend continues – now over a year from its June 2022 peak reading of 9.1%, inflation is on a path to draw near the Federal Reserve’s 2% target by late 2023 or early 2024.


What could stand in the way of that trend?  Geopolitical events and weather could impact food and energy prices.


After Saudi Arabia and Russia announced reductions in their oil production last month, unleaded gas prices, which tend to lag behind crude oil prices, traded to 1-year highs on Friday (basis September) within less than two cents of $3.00 per gallon.


Further regarding Russia, last month it withdrew from a deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea and has since attacked key port facilities in Odesa.  Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain suppliers including 13% of global corn exports and the 12% of wheat.


Add to all this, scientists watching the periodic climate pattern called El Niño are now anticipating it arriving this winter more likely as “moderate,” and possibly a “strong” event than how they assessed conditions in May.  Ocean surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean have warmed enough off the coast of South America to trigger an El Niño, meaning possibly a warmer, dryer winter here in the U.S. and higher temperatures globally. This can cause disruptions to crops in some of the world’s most important commodities sources.


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