What Are Commodity Currencies?

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Contributor, Benzinga
July 19, 2023

Commodity currencies, as the name suggests, are intrinsically tied to the fortunes of commodity markets. They represent economies whose prosperity is intricately linked to the extraction, processing and trade of natural resources. As demand for these commodities fluctuates globally, the value of their respective currencies tends to rise and fall along with the commodity prices. In this article, Benzinga discusses the largest global commodity currencies and the factors that affect them.

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Understanding Commodity Currencies

Commodities are raw materials or primary agricultural products bought and sold in large quantities. They are typically homogeneous goods, meaning that no matter where they come from, they are virtually identical. Commodities fall into three broad groups, agricultural commodities, energy commodities and metals. 

Commodities typically trade through commodity exchanges, over-the-counter (OTC) markets and online platforms. The primary trading methods are futures and spot contracts.

Commodity currencies are heavily influenced by their economy’s dependence on commodity exports. Supply and demand dynamics, global economic conditions and market sentiment link these currencies to the commodities that drive their economies.

3 Commodity Currencies to Know

Discover three of the biggest and most important global commodity currencies.

Canadian Dollar

Canada relies heavily on commodity exports, particularly in the energy and natural resources sectors. It is one of the largest global producers of crude oil, natural gas, gold, uranium and lumber. The export of these resources is central to Canada’s economic well-being.

When commodity prices rise, Canada's export revenues increase, leading to greater demand for the Canadian dollar and an appreciation in its value. When commodity prices decline, the Canadian dollar may weaken.

The U.S. is Canada's largest trading partner. Since the U.S. dollar is the dominant currency used in international commodity trading, fluctuations in commodity prices are often reflected in the value of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar.

Australian Dollar

Australia possesses abundant natural resources, particularly minerals and energy reserves. The extraction and export of these resources contribute significantly to Australia's economic growth and export revenue.

The value of the Australian dollar tends to follow commodity prices, particularly iron ore and energy commodities. When commodity prices rise, the Australian economy rallies as export earnings increase. Consequently, the Australian dollar often strengthens when commodity prices are on the rise.

The Australian economy is closely tied to China's demand for commodities because China is its biggest trade partner. China's robust industrial sector drives its demand for resources like iron ore and coal, major Australian exports. Developments in the Chinese economy and its demand for commodities can have a significant effect on the value of the Australian dollar.

New Zealand Dollar

New Zealand is a major exporter of agricultural products. As a result, agricultural commodities play a vital role in the country's economy. They account for a significant portion of its export revenue. Fluctuations in agricultural commodity prices can impact the New Zealand dollar.

New Zealand is one of the largest global dairy exporters. The dairy industry, particularly milk powder and butter, has a significant influence on the New Zealand economy. Price changes in dairy commodities on international markets can affect the country's export revenue and subsequently impact the New Zealand dollar.

New Zealand has strong trading relationships with Australia and China. Both countries import large quantities of New Zealand's agricultural commodities. The value of the NZD is influenced by economic developments in these trading partners.

Other Currencies with Commodity Correlations

Several other currencies are also highly correlated with commodities because of their export dependence. Examples include:

  • Norwegian krone (NOK): The Norwegian krone is closely correlated with oil prices because the country is heavily dependent on crude oil exports.
  • Russian ruble (RUB): Russia is one of the world's largest oil producers and exporters. Oil price fluctuations affect the country's export revenues and the ruble’s value.
  • Brazilian real (BRL): The Brazilian real is particularly vulnerable to price changes in agricultural commodities. Brazil is a major exporter of products like soybeans, coffee, sugar and beef.
  • Chilean peso (CLP): The value of this currency is closely linked to copper prices, its primary export and a significant contributor to the country's economy.
  • South African rand (ZAR): The South African economy relies heavily on precious metals exports, like gold and platinum.

Factors Influencing Commodity Currencies

The value of commodity currencies reflects economic realities and affects currency values.

Supply and Demand Dynamics of Commodities

The interaction between supply and demand has a significant impact on commodity currencies. When supply exceeds demand, prices may drop, weakening these currencies. Excess demand can create a shortage, driving prices up with the potential to strengthen commodity currencies. 

Economic growth, industrial production and changes in global consumption patterns affect the demand for commodities. Increased production often leads to higher supply, putting downward pressure on commodity prices and weakening commodity currencies. Conversely, supply disruptions support commodity prices and strengthen the currencies in commodity-exporting countries.

Economic Indicators

Economic indicators provide insights into the economic health and performance of countries heavily reliant on commodity exports. The most important indicators are listed below.

  • Gross domestic product (GDP): Strong GDP growth indicates a robust economy. Higher GDP growth suggests increased demand for commodities, leading to higher export revenues and supporting the currency.
  • Trade balance: Commodity-exporting countries rely on export revenues to maintain trade surpluses. A positive trade balance, driven by strong commodity exports, can support commodity currencies by increasing demand for the currency.
  • Consumer and business confidence: These indicators signify economic prospects. Positive sentiment can boost economic activity and commodity demand.
  • Manufacturing indicators: Such indicators offer insights into the strength of a country's industrial sector, which is often linked to commodity production and exports. Strong manufacturing and industrial production data can support commodity currencies by indicating increased demand for commodities.

Geopolitical Factors

Geopolitical events, such as trade disputes, political instability or natural disasters, can affect commodity currencies. These events can disrupt commodity supply chains, impact global trade and introduce uncertainty, leading to currency movements.

OPEC Meetings

OPEC meets to discuss oil production levels and quotas among its member countries. The impact on commodity currencies varies depending on the size of the country's oil exports. OPEC meetings can introduce oil price volatility as unexpected decisions or disagreements among OPEC members create market turbulence and increase risk perception.

Market Sentiment

Commodity currencies are often influenced by broader market sentiment and risk appetite. Changes in investor sentiment, risk-on or risk-off attitudes and shifts in market expectations can impact commodity currency demand as investment assets or safe havens.

Commodity Currencies Reflect Economic Realities

In an increasingly interconnected global economy, commodity currencies serve as a constant reminder of the role of natural resources in shaping financial markets. Changes in value act as an economic barometer, reflecting constantly changing market dynamics. Commodity currency changes offer an interesting perspective on the intricate relationships between economies, resources and currency markets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Is any currency backed by a commodity?

A

Most modern economies have adopted fiat currencies, meaning they are not backed by a commodity. Historically, gold has backed many of these currencies

Q

What is the difference between commodities and currency?

A

Commodities and currencies are distinct financial assets that serve different purposes. Commodities are physical goods, while currencies serve as a medium of exchange.

Q

Why is CAD a commodity currency?

A

Canada is one of the largest global producers and exporters of commodities like crude oil, natural gas and timber.

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