Last year started on an upswing for commodities, driven by global economic optimism. Then a pair of shocks hit. First, oil prices surged with the “Arab Spring” revolts. Then, in March, Japan was hit by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. Global economic optimism faded fast, leading to a summer economic “soft patch.” If things weren’t gloomy enough by mid-year, the partisan Congress took the country to the brink of default in August, precipitating ...

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