Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Are Commodities a Bubble Ready to Burst?

From The Telegraph:

Peak oil, peak metals, and this year peak food. Every bookshop has a corner warning that mankind will soon outrun the basic resources of the globe.

It was ever thus. Variants of the theme emerge at the top of each commodity super-cycle, only to be deferred for another 20 years or so as new supply comes on-stream and technology outwits the pessimists. Shortage can turn to glut very fast once inflation forces central banks to hit the brakes.

Some will remember Limits to Growth, published by the Club of Rome in the 1970s. It said the world's oil reserves would run dry in 30 years. Gold supply would last nine years.

The report spoke of the "sudden and uncontrollable collapse" of economic life. What in fact collapsed were oil and gold prices. We can see now that the 1970s was a central bank monetary bubble.

The question for investors who have sunk $150bn into commodity index funds - and trillions in mining and energy stocks - is whether the roaring boom of the last five years is another bubble, or whether the Malthusians are closer to the mark this time....MORE