On Thursday, most of the futures markets suffered massive sell-offs as traders dumped stocks, physical commodities and foreign currencies. As concerns grew about the debt crises in Europe and hopes for a quick economic recovery in the U.S. waned, traders shifted their assets in a "flight to quality." In this move, traders sought investments that they viewed as less risky, such as the U.S. Dollar, U.S. Treasury bonds, and the Japanese Yen.
On Thursday, crude oil fell $4.58 per barrel to four-month lows, while gasoline and heating oil each fell 10 cents per gallon on expectations that demand for the fuels would diminish. As of Friday morning, March crude oil was trading at $70.50 per barrel, down 17% since making a 15-month high three weeks ago.
Unlike other recent "flight to quality" moves, the precious metals were dumped on Thursday, suffering massive losses. Gold plunged $50 / oz loss, the biggest one-day loss since 2008, while silver dropped over $1 per ounce. The collapse in both metals continued on Friday, with March silver dropping to a five-month low at $14.84 per ounce, while gold broke beneath $1050 per ounce for the first time since November.
Sugar, which made a 29-year high on Monday at 30.4 cents per pound, was unable to continue its rise this week, and sank 1.4 cents/lb to 26 cents on Friday, a 14% crash this week.
Only a few markets were able to escape Thursday's selloff unscathed, including cattle and natural gas. Both markets rose on expectations of colder weather across the Midwest, which could interrupt the cattle supply and increase the need for heating. Natural gas extended its recent 9% rally this week, trading Friday morning near $5.60 per million BTUs. Cattle continued their two-week bullish run, with the April Live cattle contract trading Friday near $0.90 / pound, up 6% since late January.