Commodity prices face plenty of ups and downs in 2014

''A year of big ups and downs and very little in the way of sideways'' is how the ASB New Zealand commodity price index has been described over 2014.

In US dollar terms, the index had fallen 15.3% in annual terms, while the depreciating New Zealand dollar made slightly better reading in NZ-dollar terms, down 10%, rural economist Nathan Penny said.

Looking over history, the year compared favourably, with the year-index average around 8% higher than the 10-year average in NZ dollar terms and 20% higher in US dollar terms.

However, the year-average masked the swing in the index's fortunes over 2014. The index started the year about 14% higher than the 10-year average in NZ dollar terms but finished it a more modest 3% ahead.

Falling dairy prices dwarfed the movements in the other main components on a US dollar basis, falling 38.5% in annual terms, while the sheep-beef index ended the year 5% higher and the forestry index finished 3.4% down for the year.

There were some records posted over the year, with the forestry index setting an all-time high in April and beef prices hitting a record level in November.

Meanwhile, the GlobalDairyTrade Quarterly, released this week, showed overall dairy prices fell in the fourth quarter of this year at a slower rate than in the third quarter.

The GlobalDairyTrade price index declined by 1% in the fourth quarter, compared with a decline of 22% in the previous quarter.

The GlobalDairyTrade market was heavily influenced by the two highest-volume product groups, whole milk powder and skim milk powder, which together amounted to about three-quarters of the total volume sold.

In the fourth quarter, whole milk powder weighted average prices decreased 7% and the skim milk powder average decreased 8.5%.

Over the same quarter, fat-based products anhydrous milk fat, butter and cheddar showed a marked difference, with average anhydrous milk fat prices increasing 35%, butter increasing 25% and cheddar decreasing 1%.


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