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Doing research on commodities

If you need help, please contact Berenica Vejvoda, Librarian at 778.782.9704 or bvejvoda@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

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

Browse 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. 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:

Background information

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

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

Start with the website of the commodity exchange where the commodity is traded for current prices.

General sources

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.

Commodity Trade Statistics Database
Part of UNdata.  Data from 1962 and 140+ countries.

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

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

International Monetary Fund - see IMF Primary Commodity Prices.
Includes a section on selected broad 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
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.

S&P Capital IQ
Go to Companies > Commodities to access current and recent historical prices for traded commoditites. Note: You will need to be on campus when you create your S&P Capital IQ account, but you can access it remotely once you've completed that step.

Thomson Reuter Eikon + Datastream
Both the Eikon and the Datastream portions of this database provide detailed commodity data ranging from pricing to futures.

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. Editions from 1988 and later include a Commodity Prices Annex. Also see: UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics [print]

Also try business sections of daily newspapers for selected commodity prices. Note that our PressReader database has the page images of many papers from around the world, including the North America, 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.

Resource-specific sources

This is just a selection of resource-specific sources. In general, look for governmental and inter-governmental agencies that are responsible for specific types of resources. 

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

Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada
search Industries and business

Trade Data Online
Canada & US trade with other countries

Statistics Canada:

United States

Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Indexes
Start with their databases ​​

FedStats
Search relevant US government agencies to 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
US Census Bureau

Interactive Tariff and Trade Database
US International Trade Commission

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
Data on 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
Many resources at the OECD site are fee-based, but the majority will be available via the SFU Library's subscription to the OECD iLibrary - start with the Statistics section

United Nations:

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

World Trade Organization
Browse the WTO's Tariff and Trade Data to start

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