Energy: Hardest hit was the energy sector where renewed demand concerns sent the prices of WTI and Brent down by more than 15%. In response to this, hedge funds accelerated their pace of futures selling with the combined net long slumping by 90k lots to a one-year low at 425k lots. The loss of momentum following the late October peak has driven an eight-week exodus out of oil contracts, culminating last week, and during this time the net length has seen a 35% or 224k lots reduction. Potentially setting the market up for a strong speculative driven recovery once the technical and fundamental outlook turns more friendly.
Latest: Crude oil (OILUKFEB22 & OILUSJAN21) trades higher following its longest stretch of weekly declines since 2018. Today’s rise apart from a general positive risk sentiment in Asia has been supported by Saudi Arabia’s decision to hike their official selling prices (OSP) to Asia and US next month. Thereby signaling confidence demand will be strong enough to absorb last week's OPEC+ production increase at a time when mobility is challenged by the omicron virus. For now, both WTI and Brent continue to find resistance at their 200-day moving averages, currently at $69.50 and$72.88 respectively.
Metals: Gold was net sold for a second week as speculators continued to reduce exposure following the failed breakout attempt above $1830. With Fed chair Powell signaling a change in focus from job creation to fighting inflation, sentiment took another knock, thereby driving a 13.7k lots reduction to a four-week low at 105k lots. Industrial metals also suffered with the net long in HG copper slumping by one-third to a three-month low at 13.4k lots. Copper’s rangebound trading behavior since July has sapped hedge funds involvement with the current net length a far cry from the 92k record peak seen this time last year.
Latest: Gold (XAUUSD) received a small bid on Friday following mixed US data, but overall, it continues to lack the momentum needed to challenge an area of resistance just above $1790 where both the 50- and 200-day moving averages meet. Focus on Friday’s US CPI data with the gold market struggling to respond to rising inflation as it could speed up rate hike expectations thereby putting upward pressure on real yields which are inverse correlated to gold's performance. A full 25 basis point rate hike has now been priced in for July and the short-term direction will likely be determined by the ebb and flow of future rate hike expectations.
Agriculture: The whole sector with the exception of livestock took a major hit, just one week after funds had increased bullish bets on grains and softs by the most in 15 months. Both sectors suffered setbacks of more than 5% with recent highflyers like wheat and cotton taking big hits. As mentioned, selling was broad and led by corn, soybeans, sugar and cocoa, with the latter together with palladium being the only two contracts where speculators hold an outright short position.
This week the grain market will be focusing on weather developments in Australia and its potential impact on the wheat harvest, as well as the monthly World Agriculture Supply & Demand report (WASDE) from the USDA.