Can cheap commodities be a bad thing?

Corn cob held in a cornfield.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Oil, of course, is a very wet commodity, one that's getting cheaper every day -- down below $75 a barrel today. Other commodity prices are down, too, which might be good for consumers, but maybe not so good for the economy.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer explains.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Global demand for commodities is sinking on fears of recession. It's not just oil prices that are barreling down. Soy bean prices have fallen to a 13-and-a-half month low. Some metal prices are melting. It seems everything is on sale.

Quincy Krosby: We're all the winners.

Quincy Krosby is the chief investment strategist at the Hartford. She says most prices should remain stable. Say you manufacture cereal. You can keep your prices low, because you're saving money.

Krosby: I'm going to be paying less for the actual cereal, also for the production of the box that it's in and transportation of those boxes to the supermarket.

Now, the grain farmers may not be so happy. Vic Lespinasse is an analyst for GrainAnalyst.com.

Vic Lespinasse: We were at $8 a bushel almost in corn a few months ago. Now we're just at $4 a bushel, and that definitely is going to hurt farmers in the near future.

But, Lespinasse says, since we're a nation of consumers, most of us will benefit from the lower commodity prices. Then there's the matter of inflation. There was a bump up today in the core Producer Price Index. It tracks prices paid to producers, minus food and energy. William Hummer is chief economist at Wayne Hummer Investments. He says today's inflation numbers, reflect prices from months ago.

Lespinasse: The producer prices in months ahead probably will more accurately reflect the decline in some wholesale prices.

Hummer says inflation is yesterday's story.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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