Source: USGS, Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States,
Inflation-Adjusted Price of some Commodities, 1950-2009 (1998=100)
Commodity prices tend to be reflective of the complex relationships between their demand and supply on global markets. A scarcity is associated with a rise in prices, but other factors such as inflation may affect prices as investors seek commodities as leverage. While the period between 1958 and 1980 saw a constant increase of inflation-adjusted of key commodity prices, the period between 1980 and 2002 was characterized by a gradual and constant decline. The later is better explained by a more extensive and liberalized global commodity market putting pressure of prices with increased competition.
The five commodities depicted by the above graph have numerous industrial uses and are therefore key to many economic sectors:
  • Chromium: A corrosion resistant metal that creates stainless steel when used as an alloy. Also used as a dye and pigment (yellow).
  • Copper: A highly conductive and malleable metal used for piping, electrical cable, appliances and coinage.
  • Nickel: Mostly an alloy metal that is highly ferromagnetic.
  • Tin: Corrosion resistant metal as tin coated steel is used for food preservation. Also used as a solder.
  • Tungsten: Metal with a high temperature resistance with a variety of applications such as light bulbs and jet engines.