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April 9, 2011 | Tom Petruno, Market Beat
Oil at $112.79 a barrel, up 23% this year. Silver at $40.60 an ounce, up 31%. Corn at $7.68 a bushel, up 22%. Are these disturbing numbers? The European Central Bank thinks so. Citing the need to battle inflation, ECB policymakers raised their key short-term interest rate Thursday for the first time since mid-2008 (not incidentally, the last time commodity prices were going wacko). It wasn't much of an increase — from 1% to 1.25% — but it made the point: The ECB worries that money has been kept too easy for too long.
March 5, 2011 | Tom Petruno, Market Beat
Veteran Wall Street trader Victor Sperandeo had a chilling forecast for the audience at an investor gathering last month in Century City. Hyperinflation, he warned, had become a serious possibility for the U.S. given the unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus supporting the economy. That could translate into the consumer price index eventually rising at a rate of 50% or more per month, said the man known as Trader Vic. Not unexpectedly, Sperandeo also had a product pitch for the 100 or so investors who were there at the invitation of money management firm Rydex SGI. In a time of hyperinflation, Sperandeo said, Rydex's so-called managed futures funds would be a way to ride what could be exponential increases in the prices of commodities such as wheat and gold.
February 17, 2011 | By Paul West, Washington Bureau
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a business audience Thursday in suburban New York that President Obama is leading the country "on a road to ruin" unless he starts taking the federal deficit and debt more seriously. Palin cited higher unemployment and rising commodity prices as evidence that the Obama agenda of "European-style socialist policies being basically crammed down our throats" has failed. "I am sick and tired of the games that are being played in Washington," she said.
February 14, 2011 | By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times
President Obama's 2012 budget plan calls for the elimination of more than $5 billion in public support for agricultural programs, including subsidies to the wealthiest U.S. farmers. On Monday, Obama signaled that his administration wants to shift federal dollars away from farm programs, setting up a battle between the White House and legislators from agricultural states. It will also test the political will of some Republican and "tea party" lawmakers from rural districts who have vowed to trim federal spending.
February 10, 2011 | By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times
Rising commodity prices may be stoking inflation worries abroad and starting to pinch U.S. consumers at the grocery store, but for farmers strolling the grounds of the world's largest farm equipment show the good times are rolling. People good-naturedly jostled to be the first to test drive John Deere's new skid loader at the World Ag Expo, a 60-acre stretch of dusty earth and buffed machinery. They smiled as they flocked to place orders for new combines, cotton balers and top-of-the-line tractors.
January 26, 2011 | By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times
Get ready for higher grocery store bills and restaurant checks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service released its 2011 Consumer Price Index analysis for projections on food prices this week, and reported that overall food prices are expected to increase 2% to 3% this year. The projected rise comes after a stretch of relative price stability in recent years. The agency's all-food index showed a modest 0.8% increase from 2009 to 2010, and a rise of just 0.3% in prices for food consumed at home, the lowest food inflation rates seen in the U.S. since 1962 and 1967, respectively.
December 20, 2010 | By Ramin Mostaghim and Meris Lutz, Los Angeles Times
Iranians braced themselves Sunday as the government launched a series of subsidy cuts expected to increase the price of fuel as much as ninefold and jack up the cost of such necessities as bread and water. Although parliament had approved the plan to slash decades-old subsidies this year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caught the public off-guard when he announced in a television interview late Saturday that the new prices would be implemented over the next 10 days. Ahmadinejad, who fashions himself as a populist leader eager to serve the interests of the poor against corrupt fat cats, finds himself in the uncomfortable position of strenuously defending a policy favored by neoliberal Western economists and the International Monetary Fund.
November 13, 2010 | By Tom Petruno, Los Angeles Times
The fast-running bull market in commodities hit a wall Friday as prices plunged on fears that China will try to slow its economy to tame inflation. Rumors of another Chinese interest-rate hike started a chain reaction of selling across financial markets worldwide ? and gave some investors the excuse they needed to take profits after racking up heady gains in raw materials, stocks and bonds since late August. The Reuters/Jefferies CRB index of 19 major commodities slumped 11.27 points, or 3.6%, to close at 303.60, its biggest one-day loss since April 2009.
November 10, 2010 | By P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Petruno, Los Angeles Times
Be it a bushel of wheat from Kansas, a ton of rice from India or a barrel of crude from Saudi Arabia, prices for all manner of commodities are on the rise across the globe, a trend that is starting to pinch American consumers. On Tuesday prices of many raw materials continued to surge, with gold, cotton and sugar reaching record highs. A closely watched index of 19 major commodities closed at a two-year high, despite a late-day sell-off in gold and oil. The effects are rippling from financial trading floors to local stores, forcing consumers to shell out more for everyday basics ?
October 19, 2010 | By Don Lee and David Pierson, Los Angeles Times
A surprise interest-rate hike by China raised the prospect Tuesday that the world's economic locomotive will begin chugging at a slower speed ? a move that battered stocks and commodity prices around the globe and raised fresh uncertainties over continued recovery in the U.S. and other developed nations. The immediate aim of the action by China's central bank was to cool the nation's overheated real estate market and rising inflation. With more rate increases expected, it could slow the overall growth of the world's second-largest economy.
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