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Covid-19 impact weighs on commodities, says Credit Suisse

Commodities generally dropped during January after the spread of the Covid-19 virus weighed on demand forecasts for most index constituents and renewed global growth uncertainty, financial services firm Credit Suisse says.
Covid-19 impact weighs on commodities, says Credit Suisse Covid-19 impact weighs on commodities, says Credit Suisse Covid-19 impact weighs on commodities, says Credit Suisse Covid-19 impact weighs on commodities, says Credit Suisse Covid-19 impact weighs on commodities, says Credit Suisse

The Covid-19 epidemic is having a marked impact on commodity demand

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The Bloomberg Commodity Index total return was lower for the month, with 20 of 23 constituents posting losses. According to Credit Suisse Asset Management data, resources bore the brunt of the shock, with several categories falling during the period.

Energy was the biggest loser, shedding 14.78% and led lower by crude oil and petroleum products, as improved US-Iran relations reduced crude oil supply risks in the Middle East while the coronavirus outbreak disrupted manufacturing and trade activity within China, and raised concerns of supply chain disruptions.

Industrial metals declined 7.32% as growing cases of the coronavirus worldwide spurred fears of lower global economic activity, decreasing base metal demand expectations.

Conversely, precious metals gained 3.22% as a new wave of uncertainty surrounding China's economy and the ability for global growth expectations to improve supported haven demand for gold and silver.

Senior portfolio manager Christopher Burton pointed out the US Federal Reserve kept short-term interest rates steady after its latest meeting in January, noting "cautious optimism" towards global growth expectations.

"However, there remains uncertainty on how the coronavirus outbreak will impact the global economy and if it will limit progress made with the phase one trade deal as China's economy is weakened and constrained. The People's Bank of China already announced plans to inject liquidity into its markets to make up for the economic shortfall caused by the contagious virus," Burton said.

"These actions demonstrate how carefully central banks are monitoring their respective economies and their willingness to act to support long-term growth."

Global head of commodities Nelson Louie also noted the impact Covid-19 was having on growth and crude oil demand expectations as industrial and travel activity in China remained constrained.

"OPEC and its partners may decide to cut oil output further, though their impact depends on how much demand is lost as well as the details on the timing and types of any cuts. Meanwhile, the potential for supply shocks in the Middle East remains as the US continues to enforce its sanctions on Iran, and most of Libya's oil exports have been disrupted due to continued internal conflicts."

APAC slowdown

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings in New York said global ports could expect reduced trade volumes as a result of the virus. The situation could be excaserbated should an industrial recovery take longer to filter through.

Lower production in China because of the extended work holiday and factory closures is expected to affect import and export volumes in the current quarter. Ports with diversified revenue streams and long-term contracts, mostly in the US, EMEA and LATAM, are expected to weather the storm better, since their revenues are sheltered from significant trade volatility.

However, this spells danger for some Asia Pacific-region ports where a prolonged slowdown is expected to scuttle revenues.

US-China trade levels were expected to pick up somewhat with phase one of the US-China trade deal set to go into effect on February 15, but Fitch warned this rebound might take longer to take hold because of the virus-related production slowdown.

Fitch said Australian coal export terminals could expect a volume impact from a prolonged slowdown in China. However, the revenues of these export terminals are mainly independent of throughput due to the 'use-or-pay' clauses in their contracts with the coal mines.

Indonesian coal terminals, however, will be hit as Indonesia exports about one-quarter of its coal to China. Throughput at other Indonesian ports will also be affected since  China is the country's top trading partner.

India, on the other hand, has less trade exposure to China than Indonesia, and India port operators are better placed to absorb a reduction in trade.