Special Report

Seven Commodities With Collapsing Prices

7. Platinum
> YTD change: -9.4%
> Current price: $1,242.80 per troy ounce
> Dec. 31 price: $1,371.10 per troy ounce
> 5-yr change: -8.4%

Platinum typically trades at a premium to gold. This year, however, as the price of platinum has fallen more than 9%, it briefly dropped below the price of gold in October. That gold prices briefly exceeded platinum may somewhat reflect the outlook for the global economy, as gold often serves as a safe haven for investors worried about the economy or rising inflation. In a recent report, BMO Capital Markets downgraded its target price for platinum, citing a stronger U.S. dollar and a weaker South African rand — most of the world’s platinum is produced in South Africa. This year’s decline in platinum prices comes despite months-long strikes at a number of South Africa’s largest platinum mines, which cut deeply into production.

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6. Wheat
> YTD change: -11.0%
> Current price: $5.39 per bushel
> Dec. 31 price: $6.05 per bushel
> 5-yr change: 4.4%

The United States is a major producer of wheat, typically trailing only China, India, and the European Union, according to the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The price of wheat futures, however, has declined 11% so far this year through November 3, from roughly $6.05 a bushel to about $5.39 per bushel. One factor pushing down prices is likely the global supply glut of grains, as growing conditions have improved from previous drought-heavy years. However, these low prices could reverse in due time. According to the USDA, “as low prices encourage feed and food consumption across the globe, wheat use is projected higher.” Already, the USDA lowered in October its ending stocks estimate for the 2014-2015 season by 44 million bushels to 653.9 million bushels.

5. Corn
> YTD change: -11.6%
> Current price: $3.73 per bushel
> Dec. 31 price: $4.22. per bushel
> 5-yr change: -4.4%

The United States is the leading corn producer worldwide. Corn futures rose substantially each year between 2009 and 2012, when prices were over $7.00 per bushel. Since then, however, corn futures dropped by nearly half. Futures contracts priced corn at $3.73 per bushel at the beginning of November, down nearly 12% from a year ago. The decline is due to surges in corn production, which in turn can be attributed to weather patterns that have bolstered production and accelerated this year’s harvests, according to The Crop Progress Report by the USDA. While several market analysts do not anticipate increases in corn demand, the price drops could increase demand for some corn products.

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4. Silver
> YTD change: -16.2%
> Current price: $16.20 per troy ounce
> Dec. 31 price: $19.34 per troy ounce
> 5-yr change: -5.7%

Silver, one of the world’s oldest commodities, is both more abundant than other precious metals and more useful. It is especially malleable, for example, and more conductive than other metals. In the last 12 months silver futures have plummeted 25.3%, the largest such change reviewed. The commodity’s value fell 53% over a three-year period, also the largest drop in this time frame. Silver’s drop may be, like that of gold, connected to an improving economy, stronger dollar, and the prospect of higher interest rates. In an effort to increase transparency and confidence, the more than 100-year-old silver “fix”, used to set the daily benchmark price of silver, was replaced this past August with an electronic auction-based process.

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