Inflation Risks as Energy Supply Constraints Persist
Energy prices soared in the third quarter of 2021 and are expected to remain elevated in 2022, adding to global inflationary pressures and potentially shifting economic growth to energy-exporting countries from energy-importing ones.
The World Bank’s latest Commodity Markets Outlook forecasts that energy prices—expected to average more than 80 percent higher in 2021 compared to last year—will remain at high levels in 2022 but will start to decline in the second half of the year as supply constraints ease. Non-energy prices, including agriculture and metals, are projected to decrease in 2022, following strong gains this year.
“The surge in energy prices poses significant near-term risks to global inflation and, if sustained, could also weigh on growth in energy-importing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, Chief Economist and Director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, which produces the Outlook report. “The sharp rebound in commodity prices is turning out to be more pronounced than previously projected. Recent volatility in prices may complicate policy choices as countries recover from last year’s global recession.”
In 2021, some commodity prices rose to or exceeded levels not seen since the spike of 2011. For example, natural gas and coal prices reached record highs amid supply constraints and rebounding demand for electricity, although they are expected to decline in 2022 as demand eases and supply improves. However, additional price spikes may occur in the near-term amid very low inventories and persistent supply bottlenecks.
Crude oil prices (an average of Brent, WTI, and Dubai) are expected to average $70 in 2021, an increase of 70 percent. They are projected to be $74 a barrel in 2022 as oil demand strengthens and reaches pre-pandemic levels. The use of crude oil as a substitute for natural gas presents a major upside risk to the demand outlook, although higher energy prices may start to weigh on global growth.
As global growth softens and supply disruptions are resolved, metal prices are forecast to fall 5 percent in 2022, after rising by an estimated 48 percent in 2021. Following a projected 22 percent increase in 2021, agricultural prices are expected to decline modestly next year as supply conditions improve and energy prices stabilize.
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