Are commodities signaling a Lehman-sized meltdown? Japan’s Abe thinks so

Tokyo-Japan (May 26)  Only hours after Brent oil prices shot past $50-a-barrel for the first time in months, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that the past few difficult years for commodities in general could be a red flag for another global financial crisis.

Abe made the comments while hosting a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders on Thursday in Ise-Shima, Japan, according to a report from Reuters.

Abe showed his fellow leaders data charting a 55% drop in global commodity prices between June 2014 and January 2016. He said that’s similar to how much prices fell between July 2008 to February 2009 after Lehman Bros. went bankrupt and triggered a global financial crisis.

The below chart of the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index, which gauges commodity price futures and includes 19 commodities including gold and crude oil, shows the index rising and falling sharply during global financial crisis that kicked off with Lehman’s failure. It then shows the most recent downturn for commodity prices starting from 2014:

Brent oil prices LCON6, +0.84%  surpassed $50 a barrel on Thursday in Asian trading, the first time since November, while U.S.-based WTI crude CLN6, +0.71%  was knocking on the door of that key level, up $31, or 0.6%, to $49.87 a barrel. While oil futures prices are up over 30% (on a continuous contract basis, according to FactSet Research), the price of WTI, for example, was trading just under $100 a barrel at the beginning of 2014.

Abe said G-7 leaders agreed that flexible spending is needed to speed up global growth, his Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters, according to the Reuters report. “G7 leaders voiced the view that emerging economies are in a severe situation, although there were views that the current economic situation is not a crisis,” Seko said.

Read: Obama meets with Abe as G-7 summit starts in Japan

Abe may feel he needs to sound a worst-case scenario alarm as he’s looking for support for domestic fiscal stimulus, including potentially holding off a sales tax hike. With that in mind, he may lobby for a G7 statement that would help support his aims, Reuters said, citing political insiders.

Source: MarketWatch