Bonds, Currencies & Commodities
Platinum and Black Pepper

Platinum is the new attraction for traders in the commodity market in India. The daily average volume of the white metal on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) has risen five times in July, albeit from a small base. As volumes have picked up, the spreads have narrowed. Globally, platinum is traded by sophisticated commodity traders. Recently, Goldman Sachs & Co has painted a bullish outlook for the metal. It has advised investors to buy platinum futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex). The cause of bullishness is reduced supply from the world’s largest producer, South Africa, due to mine blackouts.
The metal, used mostly for pollution-control devices in cars, might again expose South African supply problems, in the second half of 2009. Platinum had slipped to $863 an ounce in January when the economic outlook turned bleak. Car-makers consume 60% of the production. With the economic outlook reversing, platinum is back in demand.
 
Black pepper exports, a major contributor to the Indian spices export, have fallen sharply in the first quarter of the current financial year. Exports crashed 46% during April-June 2009. Indian market has been taken over by cheaper exports from Indonesia and Vietnam. For the past 12-15 months, Indian prices were higher by $200-$300/tonne, on an average, than prices in Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil. Indeed, import of pepper has increased sharply to 5,451 tonnes against 3,971 tonnes during the same period of 2008-09, the spice coming mainly from Vietnam and Indonesia.

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Tea, Guar Seeds and Foodgrains

· Lack of selling and ample buying pushed ICE Futures US cotton to a nine-month high, amid rallying commodities and a falling US dollar. One of the key reasons is late monsoon rains, in the world’s second largest cotton producer, India.  

· Scanty rainfalls were also responsible for a sharp rise in the Indian guar futures. Guar is mostly grown in north-western India, where the rainfall has been particularly poor. Guar acreage in Rajasthan, the country’s top producer, is down 74%. Rajasthan accounts for about 80% of India’s guar acreage.
 
· The silver lining is that the government has raised its 2008-09 food grain output estimates by four million tonnes to a high at 233.88 million tonnes, thanks to a record production of wheat, rice, maize and gram.
 
· India has recorded a 10% drop in tea production between January and May this year, according to Indian Tea Association. Production during the period stood at 215.8 million kg, compared with 240.2 million kg in the same period last year, a decrease of 24.4 million kg. The peak period between June and October would be crucial.

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Return of the Bulls? (Which Way)
Last fortnight, I had said that we might be on the verge of a serious decline. At the time...
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