It's usually the "big boys" like oil, silver and gold that grab the headlines. Why shouldn't they? Silver prices have skyrocketed 115% in the past year; oil was back above $100 a barrel last Tuesday; and gold has been in an uninterrupted bull market for the past decade.
But if you're only watching the "big boys," then I think you're missing out on what this cyclical upturn in commodities really has to offer.
The world is growing increasingly hungry for all types of critical resources, from energy to metals to agricultural products. But there's not enough in the cupboard to feed everybody -- which is why prices continue to rise.
As the world's economic growth engine, nobody has a more ravenous appetite than China. Booming expansion in affluent cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen is fueling heavy demand for coal, iron ore, and just about every other commodity you can think of.
Imagine all the concrete, steel and electrical wiring that goes into a single skyscraper. Since the start of the year, China has started construction on 200 high-rise buildings of 50 stories or more (about as many as exist in the entire United States). And there are ambitious plans to add another one every five days in the next three years.
Meanwhile, China's new car salesleapt 32% to 18 million last year. That means nearly 50,000 new vehicles are hitting congested roadways every day. And, of course, the Pearl River region has become one of the world's largest manufacturing hubs, with countless toys, garments and electronic products rolling off assembly lines for export.
All of these things take mountains of raw materials.
Research group Harbor Intelligence has projected that China's annual aluminum imports will surge 25-fold by 2015. As for copper, the country had 280,000 tons of the red metal shipped in just in the month of June. Yet, stockpiles are still less than half where they were earlier this year. And with supply disruptions in major producing grounds like Chile crimping output, Barclays Capital is forecasting a wide 377,000-ton global deficit this year -- which could send prices streaking into record territory above $10,000 per ton.
China'sis growing about 10% annually. So in the simplest terms, the country will need about 60% more "stuff" in 2016 than it consumes today. More coal to feed its power plants. More oil to fuel all those new cars. More titanium to build bicycles and golf clubs.
According to some estimates, within a decade China will need 75% of all globally produced metals to maintain its current growth rate. But do you think the rest of the world will sit back idly and wait for table scraps? Of course not. Other fast-growing emerging markets like India and Indonesia have been hoarding materials as well.
These countries are demanding more of ALL the planet's resources, not just the headline grabbers. So don't be lulled by the mainstream press into thinking all you need is oil and gold. There are plenty of other less-followed hard assets riding the wave and posting huge gains.
Take palladium for example, a precious (yet versatile) metal used in everything from automobiles to fax machines. Rarely does palladium make front page news over silver and gold... but last year it outperformed both. Just look at the chart.
Soaring demand caused palladium's price to soar nearly triple digits.
This past year saw so much demand for palladium that raw mining alone couldn't feed the crowd. To cover the shortfall, palladium suppliers had to dip into strategic Russian stockpiles. But these stockpiles are running out.
Such surging demand and limited supply could fare well for palladium miners like North American Palladium (AMEX: PAL). As the world's largest supplier of palladium, the company is positioned to profit as prices move higher (although it is volatile).
But it's not just more metals the world needs.
Food is also in short supply.
Rising populations mean 75 million new mouths to feed annually. Unless people voluntarily quit eating, that trend is unlikely to change. Such population growth will keep pushing food prices higher and higher. With corn futures up over 80% since last June, these high prices will be a boon for growers -- the value of U.S. farm exports alone is expected to jump 26% this year to $137 billion.
To meet all this new demand, agriculture producers are going to be spending a lot more money on fertilizer. This is big news for companies like CF Industries (NYSE: CF), a company specializing in nitrogen fertilizers. Nothing other than water and sunlight is more essential to healthy corn than nitrogen.
But corn and palladium are just a couple examples of what I'm talking about. The fight over the Earth's remaining resources has just begun, and it's simply not limited to commodities like oil and gold.
Right now, the world is demanding more of EVERYTHING, making scarcity a likely theme to drive financial markets for years to come. As I've said before, this may be bad news to countries like the United States, which have become accustomed to cheap food and energy. But it's great news for the investors in the companies that supply these goods.
Of course, commodity futures will fluctuate -- nothing ever goes straight up. But by and large, I believe high -- and rising -- commodity prices are here to stay for decades.
Action to Take --> So though it's the "big boys" that are grabbing headlines and creating a buzz, those stories only scratch the surface of the potential commodities market. By expanding your horizons and looking deeper into the natural resource patch, you can find dozens of other bull markets unfolding around you.
[Note: I recently put together a free webcast that details three of the largest scarcity imbalances I've found... that are leading to soaring prices. Click here to watch now and learn the best spots to invest.]