Commodity prices

Oil price significantly below prior-year level despite recovery

The dramatic freefall of prices on international crude oil markets, witnessed since the middle of 2008, came to a halt in the first quarter of 2009. Since then, prices have risen again. Production cut-backs decided by OPEC countries, and the emerging hope for economic recovery, were the main reasons. Having bottomed out at US$ 40 in February, the price of a barrel of Brent crude rose back above the 70-dollar mark in the summer. In the first nine months of 2009, it averaged US$ 57. The prior-year figure was nearly twice as high (US$ 111).

Development of one-year forward prices on the Dutch TTF gas wholesale market € / MWh

Gas prices still affected by 2008 crude oil boom

European gas quotations mirror price developments in the oil market with a lag. Imports of gas into Germany cost 14 % less than in the same period last year. Changes in import prices are also passed through to end customers with a lag. They therefore felt the extremely high level of oil prices in 2008. In Germany, average gas prices paid by households and small commercial enterprises rose by 5 %, while they were up 3 % for industrial enterprises. The price increases outside Germany were even bigger: The aforementioned customer groups each had to pay 24 % and 13 % more in the Czech Republic, and 20 % and 16 % more in Hungary.

Gas prices in the UK displayed very disparate developments: They were an average of 20 % higher year on year for households, but 7 % down for industrial customers. The latter have already benefited from the collapse of prices on the UK gas spot market, where gas deliveries are traded a day ahead. Longer-term forward trading on the Dutch TTF gas wholesale market developed as follows: In the period under review, contracts for delivery in the coming calendar year (2010 forward) traded at an average of € 19 per megawatt hour (MWh). This is € 13 less than was paid for the 2009 forward in the first three quarters of 2008.

Demand for hard coal remains weak in Europe and the USA

Prices on international markets for thermal coal have stabilised at a low level. In the first three quarters of 2009, a metric ton in Rotterdam spot trading sold for an average of US$ 68 (including freight and insurance). This is much less than in the same period in 2008 (US$ 164). In Europe and the USA, the economic crisis continues to hamper demand for hard coal. Robust demand from China and India is having a price-stabilising effect. Hard coal quotations also reflect sea freight rates, which were markedly down year on year as well, due to lower demand. Prices for the standard route from South Africa to Rotterdam were an average of US$ 12 per metric ton, compared with US$ 38 in the first three quarters of 2008. German hard coal prices are calculated by the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA). They track the price of imported hard coal with a lag of several months. The BAFA price for the first half of 2009 was € 84 per metric ton of hard coal unit. No official figures were available for the third quarter when this report went to print. Experts estimate that the BAFA price was € 69.