FUTURES FILE

Refineries pump out gasoline

Gasoline prices plummeted to a four-month low last week as U.S. refineries ran at a near-record pace.

This is helping to boost gasoline supplies even as drivers hit the road for the final weeks of the summer driving season. Gasoline inventories usually are running on empty by the end of the summer, but stockpiles are huge for this time of year.

Typically, overactive refineries will cut into petroleum supplies and boost the price for crude oil, but breakneck U.S. oil drilling and recent imports of crude have helped to keep inventories high.

Without a surge in demand or a major supply threat, market watchers expect prices could continue lower. As of midday Friday, September oil futures traded for $65.80 per barrel and gasoline futures (a price that excludes taxes or other retail expenses) were worth $1.99 per gallon.

However, with tensions high in the Middle East and hurricane season in full swing, there are numerous threats that could spike prices higher, keeping oil traders on their toes.

Turkish despair spoils markets

Ongoing concern about the Turkish economy and its potential spillover effects to Europe and the global economy sent many markets lower last week.

Turkey’s currency, the lira, fell to new all-time lows on Monday, driven lower by internal economic woes and a worsening trade war with the White House.

As the lira has collapsed it has been dragging the euro lower on fears that European banks are heavily invested in Turkey. As those currencies fell, the US dollar exploded to a one-year high.

The rising dollar and economic concerns put pressure on commodities worldwide, especially gold and silver, which fell near two-year lows at $1161 and $14.31 per ounce, respectively. Metals investors were confused by the drop, since gold and silver historically benefit from strife and uncertainty.

Drought burns farmers globally

As summer comes to an end, farmers around the world are desperate for rain, with many having lost crops and livestock to dry conditions.

Australia is suffering from its worst drought in memory, which has devastated that country’s beef and wheat production.

Similarly, European wheat, corn and soybeans in Missouri, and even cotton in Texas are all suffering from hot and dry conditions. Longer term, shifting weather patterns could force producers to adapt, a process that could result in volatile commodity prices. An extreme example is the wheat market, which saw a massive swing in the last 10 weeks from $5.75 per bushel down under $4.50, only to rally back to $6.00 recently.

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