Commodity Markets Are Contending With a Growing Liquidity Crisis

Commodity markets are struggling to shake their months-long liquidity crisis that’s brought an era of erratic swings in the value of the world’s raw materials.

The giant price fluctuations that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine roiled markets for everything from natural gas to crude oil and metals. Trading activity in most raw material markets has sunk to low levels. Open interest in oil last week hit the lowest since 2015, while natural gas, sugar and aluminum futures holdings all remain at or near the lowest levels in years.

In out-of-control power and gas markets, spiking prices are limiting the number of contracts traders can hold because of surging collateral requirements. In oil, macro investors have pulled bets on raw materials as an inflation hedge after central banks began hiking rates. All the while, some traders have turned their backs on the London Metal Exchange after the crisis in nickel trading earlier this year.