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A very different kind of supercycle

11 May 2021


China’s long boom, like so many industrial revolutions, relied on pulling people and things into the cities. That contributed to the commodities “supercycle” of the 2000s. The entry of about a billion people into the global economy raised demand for iron, copper and oil. Factories needed raw material as well as workers. While the country’s population probably fell last year — although China’s official census data, to be published on Tuesday, may say otherwise — commodity prices are still rising.

On Monday in Singapore iron ore futures prices reached a record in dollar terms, increasing by 10 per cent during the day’s trading. The metal, used in the production of steel, is not alone. Copper prices have similarly hit record highs. Aluminium prices have rallied, as has timber. The price of palladium, used in catalytic converters for cars, has risen. Even the prices of agricultural commodities such as crops and livestock are higher.

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