Commodities enhance record as 'shutdown resistant'

Commodities' price resilience to the US government shutdown has enhanced their record as assets relatively immune to such "drama", Societe Generale said amid worries about a repeat of the budget impasse.

Commodity markets proved "largely indifferent" to the political gridlock which shut large parts of the US government for more than two weeks, the bank said.

Their September weakness - which was attributed to the removal of risk premium injected into energy markets during the height of the Syria crisis   eased off "despite the strengthening dollar and the direct loss in US economic growth".

Such resilience - indeed, a small gain - looks in line with historical performances during US government shutdowns, which have generally witnessed small gains in commodity prices, even while shares suffer.

'Disinterested in the drama'

The movement of commodity prices, as measured by the S&P GCSI index, during shutdowns "on average has been positive", SocGen said.

The longest shutdown over that period, the three-week stretch in 1995, saw gains of more than 7%, with closures in September 1976 and October 1990 witnessing gains of some 5%.

"By contrast equity markets have been on average negative," particularly in shutdowns in September 1976 and September 1979, which both saw losses of nearly 5%.

"Across major asset classes, only commodity markets seem disinterested in the drama on Capitol Hill," the bank said, pondering the potential for price support to the sector from improved global economic conditions.

'Temporary relief'

The comments came as investors attempted to assess the impact of the last-minute deal between Democrat and Republican politicians to enable a raising of the US budget ceiling - but only on a short-term basis.

The deal reopens the federal government until January 15 and suspends the debt ceiling until February 7, and requires talks to lower the budget deficit to be finished by December 13 opening up the potential for a repeat of the stand-off.

Danske Bank described the deal as offering "temporary relief", while UBS currency strategist Geoffrey Yu said that "in private, policy makers will still be nervous at the lack of a longer-term deal".

John Boehner, the Republican speaker in the House, pledged to continue to battle against President Obama's health reforms, which were central to the budget stand-off.

Grain broker Mike Mawdsley, at Market 1, said that "the near-term battle is over, but the debate, the problems, the debt, are not over and possibly just beginning".

Cancelled reports

Agricultural commodity investors are awaiting to discover exactly what the return to work of the US Department of Agriculture means, in terms of statistical releases, although the department revealed it would not be releasing a Wasde report for October the first cancellation on record.

The Wasde, the USDA's benchmark crop report, was to have been released on October 11.

"While the lapse in federal funding has ended, [the department] has not been able to engage in the necessary data collection and analysis over the past few weeks," the USDA said.

It also cancelled two weeks crop condition reports, but kept the monthly Cattle on Feed report, although it will be postponed from its October 18 release date.

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