Oil, gas sector offsets drop in other commodities tracked by Scotiabank index

TORONTO - Scotiabank says its commodity price index slipped only modestly in April, dropping 0.2 per cent from the previous month and down 0.1 per cent from a year earlier, despite a sharp drop in gold.

Scotiabank says stronger oil and gas prices partially offset declines in other commodity categories tracked by the index.

The overall index stood at 147.5 in April, down four-tenths of a point from 147.9 in March and down two-tenths of a point from 147.7 in the same month of 2012.

Three of Scotiabank's four subindexes were also down: metal and minerals fell 2.5 per cent from March and 12.6 per cent from April 2012; forest products was down 1.2 per cent month to month but up 15.3 per cent year over year. while agriculture was down 1.6 per cent from March and 0.2 per cent from April 2012.

Partially offsetting those declines was an increase in the oil and gas subindex, which was up 2.6 per cent month to month and up 7.3 per cent year over year.

Scotiabank economist Patricia Mohr, who prepared the report, wrote that prices for both oil and natural gas improved in April. She added that further gains for benchmark heavy Canadian crude are likely this month.

Natural gas prices on the Nymex market climbed to US$4.16 per million British thermal units — the highest since July 11 — from US$3.77 in March, due to prolonged wintry weather in the United States.

"Financial market concern over the outlook for commodity markets was overblown mid month," the report says.

"While China’s GDP slowed to 7.7 per cent yr/yr in 2013:Q1, from 7.9 per cent in 2012:Q4, actual demand for raw materials was robust in China."

Scotiabank says concern about China's growth precipitated a mid-April decline in the gold price, which hit an intraday low of US$1,321 on April 16, as well as lower base metal prices.