Traders returned from last weekend's break to find that copper prices had exploded due to the earthquakes in Chile. That South American country is not only the world's largest producer of the red metal, but also the world's largest exporter. Increased Asian economic activity, especially from China, continues to drive demand, leaving the market with little supply to spare. Although new mines are scheduled to open in the coming months and years, the threat to supply from the earthquake was frightening to those who needed copper near-term. While copper mines in Chile did not seem to be severely damaged, the supply of fuel to operate the mines was compromised. Copper continued higher all week, trading Friday at $3.45 per pound, up more than 5% on the week.
There were no major headlines in the corn market this week. The price of corn has hovered around $3.85/bushel for the past 2 weeks. In news vacuums, the price of corn can be subject to outside market forces such as the strength of the U.S. dollar and energy prices. Corn traded Friday morning at $3.81 per bushel, down 8 cents on the week.
Spring-like weather pulled natural gas prices down this week to historical lows. A report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration Thursday showed that the total amount of natural gas in storage was higher than expected. This extra supply, coupled with forecasts for warmer-than-normal weather across parts of the northern tier of the country, caused speculators to continue selling off their natural gas holdings. The April contract traded Friday at $4.574 million British thermal units -- the lowest price the April 2010 contract has ever seen. Compared to the stratospheric $10.00/MMBtu highs set in summer of 2008, Friday's price represents a decline of more than 50%.