Bank of England takes deep dive into ‘opaque’ commodities

A dump truck is loaded with ore at Zapolyarny mine of Medvezhy Ruchey enterprise, which is a subsidiary of the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer Nornickel, in the Arctic city of Norilsk, Russia August 24, 2021. Picture taken August 24, 2021. REUTERS /Tatyana Makeyeva

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LONDON, July 5 (Reuters) – The Bank of England said on Tuesday it will conduct an in-depth analysis of “opaque” commodity markets after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine left the central bank without a full picture of risks and vulnerabilities.

Just as the global financial crisis threw a spotlight on unregulated so-called shadow banks, commodity price spikes this year have rung alarm bells among regulators on the need to plug data gaps in the sector as households struggle with rocketing energy bills, stoking inflation.

“Heightened uncertainty following the Russian invasion means there is significant risk of further disruption to commodity markets,” the BoE’s Financial Policy Committee said in its half-yearly report on risks to Britain’s financial system.

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Big UK banks have up to 140 billion pounds or 50% of their total core capital of gross exposure to commodity producers, suppliers, and traders, and to commodity derivatives.

Around 110 billion pounds of UK bank exposures are on their lending books.

Banks have enough capital to continue supplying credit to commodity market participants, it said.

“If disruption is prolonged and uncertainty increases, banks may become even less willing to extend credit to commodity market participants,” the BoE said.

Regulators have sight of energy and metals markets traded in Britain, but commodities such as grains are traded elsewhere in the United States and France.

In addition, a large part of commodity market activity comprises physical production and inventory, which are largely unregulated, making it hard to build up a full view.

Nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange hit a record high of more than $100,000 a tonne after Russia, a major producer, invaded Ukraine, with trading suspended for a week in March and the LME’s clearing house forced to nearly double its default fund.

The BoE and Financial Conduct Authority opened reviews into the LME and its clearing arm.

Britain’s economic outlook has deteriorated materially in part because of higher commodity prices and the BoE is making it a priority to get a better grip of underlying activity which is interlinked to the wider economy and financial system

“Due to opacity, fragmentation of reporting and lack of data in some markets, quantifying the size and scale of these fragilities and interconnections remained challenging, and addressing this globally should be a priority,” the BoE said.

Trade repositories for reporting transactions were set up in the aftermath of the global financial crisis over a decade ago, but it is still cumbersome to draw on data from them to build up a snapshot of who is exposed to a particular commodity.

The BoE said there are gaps in reporting, with the granularity of data limited in some markets, with some physically-settled off exchange transactions not even reported to repositories.

Resolving issues in commodities would require broad engagement with financial and non-financial authorities in Britain and globally, it said.

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Reporting by Huw Jones, editing by Andy Bruce and David Milliken

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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