Markets Fear Fury of El Nino; Two Years of Commodity Chaos Loom Because of an Ocean Current

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 21, 1997 | Go to article overview

Markets Fear Fury of El Nino; Two Years of Commodity Chaos Loom Because of an Ocean Current


Byline: NEIL THAPAR;RACHEL OLDROYD

IT IS called El Nino, the Christ Child, but it may spell big trouble for the world's financial and commodity markets.

El Nino is a warm current that rises in the Pacific off Peru every eight years and causes two years of climatic changes in the southern hemisphere.

It is happening again - but this time there are fears that it will bring a massive lurch in the weather.

Big temperature swings and floods or droughts in countries as far apart as Peru and Thailand will affect the supply of commodities such as wheat, sugar, coffee and cocoa. This will disrupt the economies of many countries, slowing growth and hitting currencies, they warn.

El Nino is already making ripples in the commodities and futures markets, where investors are taking billions of pounds worth of bets on its impact.

Lawrence Eagles, of London commodity broker GNI, says: 'There are clear signs of speculators moving into commodities.' Cocoa hit a 10-year high this month and wheat prices rose 15% amid fears that production will fall in key countries. El Nino's last appearance in 1982 and 1983 caused 2,000 deaths, [pounds sterling]5 billion damage around the world and wild swings in commodity prices. Now scientists fear that the effects of the latest El Nino, which will come on the heels of other serious climatic changes, may dwarf that.

Alan Mandel, managing director of Strategic Risk Management in New York, warns: 'Northern latitudes have been getting colder and wetter for the past three years.

'El Nino is making the problem worse by producing even more copious amounts of water. …

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