Magic mirror on the wall, where’s the fairest value for commodities overall?
Or, as BoAML notes on Thursday:
Commodities may be soft in USD terms, but for anyone living in South Africa or Turkey they are back to the record highs of the ominous summer of 2008 (Chart of the Day). In contrast, in PLN and RUB they are as low as they have not been since 2010. This divergence will have a significant impact on growth and inflation in 2014: weak pricing power means that higher commodity prices act as a tax on demand, slowing down growth and thus ultimately reigning in current account deficits and inflation. For now, markets focus primarily on the short-term inflation uplift, but we believe FX pass-through will prove self-deflating, and rebalancing will materialize.
Over the new year the New York Times published a scathing attack on Professor Scott H. Irwin of the University of Illinois and Professor Craig Pirrong, of the University of Houston, in which author David Kocieniewski argued the professors were shills for the industries they covered.
Kocieniewski’s case against Pirrong was that he had defended and still defends speculation in commodity markets whilst working as a consultant for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Trafigura, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and other market players.
His issue with Irwin was his position as a defender of speculation in agricultural markets, whilst consulting for a business that serves hedge funds, investment banks and other commodities speculators. Read more
Here’s a crazy thought to start the New Year year with. What if virtual currencies were born less of an organic anti-government peoples’ movement and more of extreme unconventional monetary policy by the state? The ultimate central bank Jedi mind trick if you will, which takes easing to levels that conventional policy just cannot go.
But even if it’s not a plan hatched directly by monetary bodies to serve the interests of the state, there’s still a strong argument to be made that virtual currencies could be doing the Fed, the BoE and even the ECB a big favour. Read more
It has been a year to jump on a bandwagon sailing with the wind at the heart of the pack. Momentum, baby.
Let Citi paint you a picture: Read more
This guest post is from Mark Haefele, Global Head of Investment at UBS Wealth Management, and his colleague Chris Wright, Cross-Asset Strategist.
A key rule in financial markets is that rational investors should not take unnecessary risks. It is strange, then, that some savvy investors still allocate to commodities over a long-term, five-year-plus horizon. The assumption is that commodities diversify portfolios, hedge against inflation, and, in the case of gold, offer a safe store of value. But our research suggests these justifications for long-term bets on commodities are illusory. Read more
We’ve argued before that the 2005-2007 commodity bull-run could have been the product of an unwitting self-manufactured squeeze, as the industry rushed to monetise as much inventory as possible to benefit from higher than usual interest rates and as inventory levels dropped. (All pretty much unwittingly, of course.)
As prices increased, the economy choked. Read more
Take yourself back to the heady oil price days of early 2008. Imagine a rogue voice reassuring the market to “fear not, one day soon the US will be saturated in the black oozey stuff”.
What would the market have made of such a concept? Would such a voice have been dismissed as a loon? Very possibly.
And yet, less than six years later comes the following warning from Goldman Sachs: Read more
Here’s an unintended consequence of the government shutdown that the Republicans may not have envisioned: commodity market turmoil.
John Kemp of Reuters makes the excellent point on Wednesday that the shutdown, if it continues, will soon hit important government data statistics services such as the CFTC’s weekly commitments of traders report and even potentially the EIA’s weekly inventory figures. Read more
In the summer, FT Alphaville attended a retreat organised by fin-tech investor Sean Park, who heads up the venture firm Anthemis. The event introduced us to a number of Anthemis’ portfolio and partner companies, all of whom were somehow connected to disruptive trends in finance.
Among them was a company called Trōv. Read more
A very intriguing little exclusive from Reuters on Friday:
(Reuters) – China is developing a new trading platform to enable banks to sell off loans to a wider range of investors, in a move that could pave the way for a government bailout of lenders or distressed asset sales to private investors. Read more
An interesting paper has just landed on the BIS working paper site, in which the myth that commodities provide a solid diversification tool for investment portfolios has been beautifully debunked.
The grounds for this are mostly due to too much correlation, and volatility. Read more
This is Joseph. He is a well known commodity forecaster.
The New York Times ran a big piece on the ongoing commodity shuffle this weekend. The one FT Alphaville (and others) have been writing about for a long while now, and which applies to both metals and energy markets.
The story followed a Reuters article reporting that the Fed was now “reviewing” a landmark 2003 decision that first allowed regulated banks to trade in physical commodity markets. It was this, we always noted, that allowed for the emergence of a so-called physical loophole for a number of top Wall Street institutions active in commodity markets. The fact that they were swap dealers with physical exposures ensured they were eligible for exemptions (on such things as position limits) whilst other financial institutions were not. Read more
The fixed income team at Credit Suisse have a good note talking about what’s really driving WTI backwardation. Small hint, they don’t think it’s much to do with Egypt.
They put the backwardation down to three things. Read more
That’s from Deutsche Bank today.
We joke, we joke. A little. Deutsche had of course already joined the commodities-supercycle-is-dead chorus, and this note is not from the commodities side but by Asia chief economists Taimur Baig and Jun Ma. Read more
Business Insider suggested the ascent of US real yields was possibly the most important development in the market right now. We don’t disagree.
As we noted, it represents the market’s reconnection with disinflationary reality. The smoke and mirrors are fading. What is worrying, however, is that a move of this size has been prompted by simple talk of tapering. If that’s what tapering does, what will the first hint of a proper QE exit inspire?
As a result, it’s unlikely that an outright QE exit is viable at this stage. The deflationary consequences (which include the chances of a major market-sell off) would arguably be too large. Given that let’s analyse what the move in real yields really signifies. Read more
It’s been our mantra at FT Alphaville for a while, but finally someone from the ‘serious’ analyst space seems to agree with our hypothesis that commodity collateralisation — incentivised by low rates and excess liquidity — is having a larger impact on inventories and commodity prices than most people appreciate.
Here’s an extract from one of oil market veteran Philip K. Verleger’s recent articles on the relationship between interest rates and inventories (our emphasis): Read more
FT Alphaville was cordially invited to talk about the collateralisation of commodities at two separate conferences this past month. We thank IHS Global and the Association des Economiste Quebcois for the opportunity.
The crux of our argument was that you can’t really understand what’s going on in commodity markets unless you appreciate that commodities are no longer a pure consumption-based market. Read more
Yes, we know it’s not new, but the divergence between stock markets and commodity prices is now looking extreme. Consider this chart from Julian Jessop at Capital Economics…
We’ve been reading a lot lately about the potential for cheap natural gas to replace oil-derived transport fuels in the US — and perhaps globally.
Much of this excitement overlooks some fundamentals of energy and commodities in general and the US natural gas sector in particular. The short version is that energy markets are incredibly difficult to predict, and adding interactions between energy sources only adds to the uncertainty. Read more
When it comes to commodities everyone understandably likes to focus on supply and demand. However, there is another important driver for commodity prices that’s sometimes overlooked.
The real interest rate. Read more
Silver is off 6.4 per cent and gold is down 3.8 per cent, although the latter follows a steeper fall on Friday:
From Capital Economics on Friday:
At the time of writing (Friday afternoon in the UK), equity and commodity prices and government bond yields are all falling sharply. This appears to be in response to weaker-than-anticipated US data on retail sales and consumer confidence (discussed further below). If so, this is probably an overreaction, as the figures were hardly disastrous. The falls in the prices of riskier assets may also have been exaggerated by week-end position squaring after the Bank of Japan-inspired rally in the previous days.
Nonetheless, most of these moves are consistent with our long-held view that a disappointing global recovery will cause the equity market rally to run out of steam, the prices of industrial commodities to fall further (with Brent crude in particular heading back below $100) and 10-year US Treasury yields to dip to 1.5% or so by year-end. The pick-up in market volatility more generally is something that we had been anticipating too.
A small selection from our inbox the last few weeks.
First, this from Barclays on Friday, about copper: Read more
Societe Generale’s big (bearish) scorecard on “the end of the gold era” – click to enlarge:
The latest commodity advice from Goldman Sachs suggests the current sell-off may be overdone.
Here are the key points from Monday’s note:
Shifting to near-term overweight as commodity sell-off overdone
Commodity markets declined sharply in February along with emerging market (EM) equities due to renewed concerns over China, which we believe is overdone. Although our price targets other than gold remain unchanged, this pull back has pushed our near-term return forecast from 2.0% to 6.0%, making commodities the asset class within the ECS coverage universe with the most robust near-term outlook. However, our 12-month neutral recommendation remains unchanged as our returns forecast is still a more subdued 3.0%, as we continue to remain structurally neutral on long-dated oil and commodity prices due to the structural supply-side response to persistently high prices.
Almost a year ago the Telegraph’s Thomas Pascoe put out an interesting piece on gold. We’ve decided to reprise it this Friday because we think it offers an interesting and useful perspective on current developments in the gold market:
One of the most popular trading plays of the late 1990s was the carry trade, particularly the gold carry trade. In this a bank would borrow gold from another financial institution for a set period, and pay a token sum relative to the overall value of that gold for the privilege.
FT Alphaville doesn’t tend to follow the nickel market too closely, but the research from Goldman Sachs on Thursday did strike us as interesting (our emphasis):
2012 nickel market summary: Weak demand growth and lower input costs As background, nickel underperformed in 2012, starting the year at $18,910/t, rising to $21,700/t in early February, and finishing the year at $16,998/t, declines of 10.1% and 21.4%, respectively. Overall nickel prices averaged $17,536/t in 2012, down 23.4% yoy from 22,900/t in 2011. Price weakness reflected a combination of soft global consumption growth set against significantly higher low-cost nickel pig iron supply in China, and, importantly, a shift down of the nickel cost curve in 2H2012 (largely reflecting lower energy and nickel ore input prices).