Since the start of 2010, the rally in commodities has been a boon for companies and investors in the Energy and Materials sectors. Consumers, on the other hand, are increasingly feeling the impact on their wallets. In the chart below we have calculated the cumulative daily price change of the major food and energy commodities in the CRB index (Corn, Soy, Wheat, Cattle, Hogs, Oil and Natural Gas) since the beginning of 2008. We then multiplied the changes by the annual per capita consumption of each item. When the line is in positive territory, commodity prices are acting as a tax on consumers, while readings in negative territory are indicative of a windfall for consumers. Although this method may oversimplify the actual costs, it provides a good idea of how changes in commodity prices have impacted consumers' wallets over the last 24 months.
As shown in the chart, the rally in commodities in 2008 was especially painful on consumers. During the Summer of 2008, commodity prices were acting as a $4.77 per capita daily tax on US consumers versus the start of the year. When the credit crisis escalated, commodities tanked, thus erasing the entire tax (and then some) on consumers. By the time commodity prices bottomed in early 2009, US consumers were now benefitting from nearly a $5 daily windfall due to the decline. Since commodity prices bottomed early last year, however, that windfall has been slowly dwindling away. While US consumers are still benefitting from lower commodity prices compared to the start of 2008, the windfall is less than 30% of what it was nearly a year ago.
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