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The Ukraine Crisis Is Wreaking Havoc On Commodities

UkraineAn armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside an Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 9, 2014. Shots were fired in Crimea to warn off an unarmed international team of monitors and at a Ukrainian observation plane, as the standoff between occupying Russian forces and besieged Ukrainian troops intensified.

Tensions in Ukraine have produced extreme volatility across the spectrum of commodities.

Wheat prices have seen the greatest surge, up 6% in the past seven days and 24% since hitting a low in January. Ukraine is the sixth-largest wheat exporter in the world. Corn, of which Ukraine is the world’s third-largest exporter, is up 10% over the past 30 days.

“Grain traders are still focusing their attention on developments in Crimea,” Carsten Fritsch, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said in a note, per Bloomberg. “In the event of a yes vote, shipment problems could be the result.”

Via Morgan Stanley, here’s a chart showing how much heft the region has in the grains trade:

Ms ukraine grains

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association predicted higher oil prices in 2014 could blow a $US3 billion hole in profits. The agency revised its forecast up to $US108 a barrel, $US3.50 higher than its previous projection. London-traded Brent has traded as high as $US111 this month, though it has since come down to $US108.

“Recent tensions, including in the Ukraine, have sparked an upward trend,” the agency said in a statement, adding, “While a resolution of the situation in the Ukraine is still far from clear, the rise in oil prices is being felt across the industry.”

Finally, nickel and palladium prices could soar if the U.S. and Europe decide to impose sanctions on Russia, according to TD Securities’ Bart Melek.

The form of these sanctions matter a great deal to the palladium and nickel markets, as Russia accounts for 42% and 11%, respectively, of global supply. Sanctions could result in the disappearance of a large source of currently needed market supply and that certainly helped to attract investors to both metals last week.

Palladium is up 6.2% over the past 30 days.

The Crimea is holding a referendum on whether to separate from Ukraine, although the territory’s parliament, which was recently occupied by pro-Russian forces, has already issued a declaration of independence.

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