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Doing research on commodities

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Introduction

This guide is designed to assist students doing research on commodities. It will help answer the following questions:

  • Where is the commodity found? This includes both the country or countries and the type of environment.
  • What are the environmental considerations associated with the extraction or production of the commodity?
  • How is the commodity extracted (produced) and by whom?
  • How much of the commodity is left?
  • Who uses the commodity (industries, individual consumers)?
  • How is the commodity used?
  • In what form is the commodity used?
  • What is the price of the commodity (current, historical, and trends)?

The guide also provides information on Commodities Market Trading.

Books

Use the Library Catalogue to find books, research reports, and government documents here at SFU Library.

Books about commodity markets and futures trading

Search by subject in the Catalogue for topics such as Commodity exchanges or Futures market and the sub-topics (called sub-headings) which include different countries (e.g. Commodity exchanges - Canada) or topics (e.g. Commodity exchanges - History).

For information on a specific commodity exchange, use the exchange name as a subject search e.g. Chicago Board of Trade.

Books about a commodity or group of commodities

Search by the name of your resource or commodity as a subject.

Scan the list of subject headings to see what is available. For example, try searching for the subject, Nickel. You will see that there are many books on this subject. They are categorized by sub-topic (called sub-headings), such as Environmental aspects, and by a more specific topic, such as Nickel Industry, Nickel mines and mining. Look closely at these subject heading lists to find relevant books. Don't forget to try alternate terms for your commodity (ie. Canola is also called Rapeseed; pigs are also called hogs).

If you don't find any books on your commodity, remember that it is part of broader groups of commodities. For example, the commodity Canola is part of the Oilseeds group, which is part of the Grains group, which is part of the Agricultural group. The commodity pigs is part of the Livestock group, which is also part of the Agricultural group. Gold is part of the Precious Metals group, which is part of the Metals group.

Another way to find books on your commodity and various aspects of it is to use keyword searching. Keyword searches are especially useful for finding chapters in edited books. For example, try this search: forest* AND (ecolog* OR environment*) AND British Columbia. You will find chapters in several edited books and also some other subjects for further searching, including Sustainable Forestry.

Journal articles

Use these databases to find information about your commodity in academic, trade and popular magazines, newspapers and government publications:

Definitions & codes

Commodity Indexes for the Standard International Trade Classification, Revision (SITC) 3. (print)
UN commodity codes. Find your commodity and get the code. This guide also helps to indicate the broader category to which your commodity belongs.

The Language of Commodities: A Commodity Glossary (print)

Background information

Each of these reference books has some information on commodities, commodity markets, price indexes and other relevant topics.

Guides to information sources

Primary Commodity Markets and Models: An International Bibliography (print)

Associations & exchanges

In addition to the links below, it is often helpful to find an association or organization that is specific to your commodity (or commodity group). Use one or more of the sources listed in our Finding Business and Trade Associations guide to find an appropriate association for your commodity.

Associations

Exchanges

Here are just a few of the many commodity exchanges. Some commodity exchanges deal in several commodities, some just deal in one commodity. No exchange deals in all commodities. Consult the CRB Commodities Yearbook (below) to find out which exchange(s) lists your commodity.

For a more complete list of world-wide exchanges, see the Rutger's University Libraries Stock and Commodities Exchange list.

Commodity prices, commodity trade data & other statistics

Commodities Price Locator (print): This publication, though dated, is still a useful place to start, as it covers over 150 publications that regularly report commodity prices. Details of the publications are also provided. About one third of these sources are government publications and may now be available on the web; others may be available through LexisNexis.

Current prices

Look at the website of the commodity exchange where the commodity is traded for current prices.

Sharelinks Global Stock Market Quotes
(go to the page and scroll down to Commodities and Futures there are two links to choose from depending upon your commodity)

UNCTADstat
(includes the monthly Commodity Price Bulletin, covering the last 12 months for many commodities, as well as a statistical database)

Business sections of daily newspapers provide selected commodity prices. Note that our PressReader database has the page images of many papers from around the world, including the Asia and Europe editions of the Wall Street Journal. Since tables of commodity prices are rarely included in regular "text-only" databases, getting access to the page image of the newspapers makes it easier to find such information.

Check some of the resource-specific sources in the Historical prices section below as many of them also provide current prices.

Historical prices, trade data and other statistics

General sources

Statistics and other information on all commodities or one commodity group (note:  Number of commodities listed differ in each of these sources, as does the specificity of the listing. It is best to check several of them for your commodity.)

BP Statistical Review of World Energy (BP Global)
Consumption, reserves, prices and more for oil, gas, coal, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric energy).

Commodity Market Review (print)
FAO,. Food and agricultural products - production, trade, prices. See also the online data at FAOSTAT.

Commodity Trade and Price Trends (print)
World Bank. Time series for prices and trade data for all types of commodities.

CRB Commodity Yearbook
Library has print 1940-1984 print: 1985-present; 2004 edition is available electronically): Production and prices for all types of commodities. Also notes sources of data.

Economist Intelligence Unit:
Start with their ViewsWire product and look for a link to Commodity Analysis.

Historical Statistics of Canada (online or print)
Some statistics and also provides a reference to the source of the statistics.

International Financial Statistics (print)
IMF. Section on selected broad commodity prices.  This is also available on the web at the International Monetary Fund - see IMF Primary Commodity Prices.

International Trade by Commodities Statistics  (print)
OECD. Gives imports and exports by broad commodity for OECD countries including Canada.

International Trade Statistics Yearbook (print)
UN. Covers all commodities with data by country and by commodity (uses SITC codes)

Passport (formerly known as the Global Market Information Database)
Statistics and market reports on many commodities by country, region or for the whole world. Also includes information on imports/exports, consumption/production, reserves. Data from 1977 onward is available.

UNCTADstat
"Commodity Price Statistics provide monthly free-market prices and price indices starting in January 1960 for selected commodities that concern commodity-dependant countries. Price indices are provided for commodity groups (including food, tropical beverages, vegetable oilseeds and oils, agricultural raw materials, minerals, ores and metals), and for all groups in current dollars and SDRs."

UNCTAD Commodity Yearbook (print)
UN trade, production/consumption, principal producers for all commodities). Tables from the 2003 edition covering 1970-2000 are available online. 1988 edition and later has Commodity prices Annex.

UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics

World Trade Annual (print)
UN. Trade data organized by SITC code.

Resource-specific sources

Resource-specific sources (a selection, more are available, search the catalogue by keyword to find them - e.g.. forest products and statistics; cotton and statistics. Some of these also have current price information. Most of these are periodic publications. Current issues are usually in the Bennett Reference Collection and past issues are in the Bennett stacks. By using both current and past issues, you can get both historical and current information):

  • Canadian Minerals Yearbook (print; also available on the web)
  • Coal Information (print)
  • Energy Statistics of OECD Countries 2001-2002 (print)
  • FAO Yearbook Fisheries. (print)
  • FAO Yearbook of Forest Products. (print)
  • Kitco (current & historical prices for precious metals)
  • Minerals Yearbook (USGS) (print)
  • Natural Gas Information (print)
  • Oil Information 2004 (print)

If you are looking for truly historical data, here is an interesting source:

Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank (historical currency data and prices of a select few commodities)

Government information

Canada

In addition to the following Federal government links, try looking for information on the Provincial government websites (i.e., for Cod, try Newfoundland or another Atlantic province; for Western Red Cedar, try the BC government website):

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
(see especially the Market Analysis Group publications)

DFO Statistics
(includes landings from 1972 to the present and other useful publications)

Export Development Canada
(see especially resources such as the Commodity Tracker)

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: Office of the Chief Economist
(research and analysis)

Natural Resources Canada
(information on forests, energy, minerals and metals)

Industry Canada (search Industries and business)

Trade Data Online (Canada & US trade with other countries)

Statistics Canada:

CANSIM
(socio-economic time series data)

United States

Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Indexes
(use the customized query form to get data. Note that not all years are available for all commodities. See also the Consumer Price Index which produces monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services and also provides average retail prices for a few select commodities from 1980-present)

FedStats
(find data and other analytical products on your commodity group)

Energy Information Administration
(data on coal, natural gas, electricity, petroleum and other energy sources)

Foreign Trade Statistics

Interactive Tariff and Trade Database

NOAA Fisheries
(data and other information on ocean fisheries - includes Fishery market news, which has historical prices from the Fulton Fish Market from 1987 onward, as well as other fish markets in the US and abroad)

USDA:

USGS Minerals Information
(minerals, metals, stone, clay, glass, and concrete )

International

Europa

(check your commodity group under Activities or use the EUROSTAT statistical databases)

International Monetary Fund

(includes IMF Primary Commodity Prices data)

OECD: Start with the Statistics section of OECD iLibrary

United Nations:

World Bank
(choose your commodity group from their Data by Topic list or search for other publications)

World Trade Organization
(look for your commodity under Trade Topics/Goods, look at Trade Statistics, browse for publications or search their bibliography for WTO-related information on your topic in other publicatons)

Web resources

In addition to the links below, search Google for information on your commodity.

Related guides

Student guides and style guides