4 Dec 2013

Commodity prices fall but still high

7:15 am on 4 December 2013

Commodity prices fell for the first time in five months in November, dragged down by falls in aluminium and some dairy products.

The ANZ Commodity Price Index eased 0.4% to be 21.4% higher than a year ago. The index is now 2% below the record high reached in April.

Aluminium recorded the largest fall across the commodity basket, dropping 4% to a four-year low, while wholemilk powder and butter also eased. This was partly offset by higher prices for meat, skins, wool and other dairy products.

The price index edged higher in New Zealand dollar terms.

Westpac Bank senior economist Michael Gordon said on both measures, commodity prices remained close to their record highs.

In NZ dollar terms, the was about 7% below its 2001 peak, "so it's still definitely at the higher end of history".

"So what we've really seen is that even though the kiwi dollar has been pretty consistently above 80c for quite some time now, even despite that we're still getting some pretty good prices for our basket of export commodities," Mr Gordon said.

"Having said that, there is quite a bit of divergence across the different types, so we're getting very strong prices for dairy and meat in particular."

However, prices for product such as fruit had been "fairly sideways", and aluminium prices had been falling for several years.

The index would remain elevated in the short term but prices were likely to fall next year as the global supply of dairy products increases, leading to a lower milk payout to farmers in the 2015 season, he said.