Commodities also may rally because of supply cuts. Morgan Stanley expects copper demand to outpace supply for a fourth year in 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting the smallest global corn stockpiles in six years and the lowest soybean inventories in two decades after drought across the U.S. and Europe parched crops. Sanctions against Iran are crimping oil exports from what was once the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Hedge funds and other speculators remain bullish and held the biggest bet on rising prices in 16 months in the week ended Sept. 11, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Holdings more than doubled since mid-June. That contrasts with a 95 percent reduction in the net-long position before the start of the first round of quantitative easing in December 2008.
‘Tug of War’
“This is not as much as a one-way ticket as it has been in the previous two instances,” said Sean Corrigan, the chief investment strategist at Diapason Commodities Management SA in Lausanne, Switzerland, which has about $7 billion invested in commodities. “The tug of war is between how much is already priced in and how much poorer is the underlying commodity demand because the world economy is in a much worse condition now.”
China, the biggest consumer of everything from coal to cotton to copper, set an annual growth target of 7.5 percent in March. It cut interest rates for the second time in less than a month in July and lowered reserve requirements three times between November and May. The government approved plans this month for a $158 billion subways-to-roads construction plan.
The economy of the euro area contracted 0.5 percent in the second quarter and probably won’t expand again until the second quarter of next year, according to the median of 24 economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The global economy is sliding into a “twilight zone,” caught between expansion and recession, and it “could go either way,” said Joachim Fels, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley in London.
Equities and high-yield debt probably will give greater returns than commodities, said Ashish Misra, the head of investment strategy at Lloyds TSB Banking Group in London. Its private banking unit manages about 11 billion pounds ($17.8 billion) of assets. Commodities have risen about fourfold since the end of 2001, during which the MSCI All-Country World Index gained 41 percent and Treasuries returned 77 percent.
“We’re heading for a period of underperformance in commodities after years of outperformance,” Misra said. “The effects of a slowdown in China and resumption of normal production trends in agriculture after this year’s drought- driven supply shocks should continue to pressure commodity prices downward.”