Gold prices exploded this week, topping $1280 per ounce, the highest price since January 2015, when prices peaked out near $1310. Gold bugs are rushing out of the woodwork as investors shy away from volatile stocks, bonds, and crude oil, seeking the perceived safety of the yellow metal.
One factor that could dampen buyers' enthusiasm was a strong US jobs report Friday morning. If the economy continues to gain strength, the US Federal Reserve could raise interest rates again, which would likely undercut gold prices.
While gold led the rally, other metals followed suit, with silver trading Friday for $15.75 per ounce and platinum near $985.
Natural Gas Glut
Natural gas prices collapsed to a 20-year low on Friday, touching $1.61 per million British thermal units. Prices are falling after a relatively warm winter and high production levels left stockpiles at a record high for this time of year. Typically, stockpiles run low in the early spring, but natural gas in storage is currently over 2.5 trillion cubic feet, 45% more than last year.
For consumers, low prices have led to lower heating bills and should also eventually translate to lower electricity costs. Natural gas now accounts for one-third of US power generation, a figure that has been climbing while coal consumption is falling as plants opt for cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas.
While low prices could stimulate more demand, many analysts fear that strong production levels will outpace demand, potentially resulting in a supply that exceeds storage capacity. If storage runs out, the market could flame out and fall farther.
After touching a three-month low on Tuesday, the soybean market roared back, climbing 20 cents per bushel by Friday, a welcome rally for farmers after two weeks of falling prices.
Prices bounced on news that soybean exports have been strong and are likely to continue in the coming weeks as wet weather has bogged down transportation in Brazil, the United States' biggest competitor for soybean sales.
Longer-term, bean prices are likely to be capped by Brazil, as the South American country is producing a record large crop. As of midday Friday, March soybeans were worth $8.67.