COT: Gold and oil left out as funds return to commodities
Head of Commodity Strategy
Summary: Our weekly Commitment of Traders update highlights future positions and changes made by hedge funds and other speculators across commodities and forex during the week to August 16. A week that potentially saw a cycle peak in US stocks and where the dollar and treasury yields both traded calmly before pushing higher. Commodities meanwhile continued their recent recovery with funds being net buyers of most contracts, the major exceptions being gold and crude oil
This summary highlights futures positions and changes made by hedge funds across commodities and forex during the week to August 16. A week that potentially saw a cycle peak in US stocks with the S&P 500 reversing lower after reaching a four-month high, and where the dollar and treasury yields both traded calm before pushing higher. Commodities meanwhile continued their recent recovery with all sectors, except precious metals and grains recording gains.
Hedge funds were net buyers for a third week with the total net long across the 24 major commodity futures tracked in this update rising by 14% to reach a seven week high at 988k lots. Some 56% below the recent peak reached in late February before Russia’s attack on Ukraine drove an across-the-board volatility spike which forced funds to reduce their exposure. Since then and up until early July, worries about a global economic slowdown, caused by a succession of rapid rate hikes in order to kill inflation, was one of the key reasons for the slump in speculative length.
Returning to last week, the 123k lot increase was split equally between new longs being added and short positions being scaled back, and overall the net increase was broad led by natural gas, sugar, cattle and grains with most of the selling being concentrated in crude oil and gold.
Energy: Weeks of crude oil selling continued with the combined net long in WTI and Brent falling by 26k lots to 278k lots, the lowest belief in rising prices since April 2020. Back then the market had only just began recovering the Covid related energy shock which briefly sent prices spiraling lower. While funds continued to sell crude oil in anticipation of an economic slowdown the refined product market was sending another signal with refinery margins on the rise again, partly due surging gas prices making refined alternatives, such as diesel, look cheap. As a result, the net long in ICE gas oil was lifted by 24% to 62k lots while RBOB gasoline and to a lesser extent ULSD also saw net buying. The net short in Henry Hub natural gas futures was cut by 55% as the price jumped by 19%.
Metals: Renewed weakness across investment metals triggered a mixed response from traders with gold seeing a small reduction in recently established longs while continued short covering reduced bearish bets in silver, platinum and palladium. With gold resuming its down move after failing to find support above $1800, the metal has been left exposed to long liquidation from funds which in the previous two weeks had bought 63.3k lots. Copper’s small 1% gain on the week supported some additional short covering, but overall the net short has stayed relatively stable around 16k lots for the past six weeks.
Agriculture: Speculators were net buyers of grains despite continued price weakness following the latest supply and demand report from the US Department of Agriculture on August 12, and after shipments of grains from Ukraine continued to pick up speed. From a near record high above 800k lots on April 19, the net long across six major crop futures went on to slump by 64% before buyers began dipping their toes back in to the market some three weeks ago. Buying was concentrated in bean oil and corn while the wheat sector remained challenged with the net long in Kansas wheat falling to a 2-year low.
The four major softs contract saw strong buying led by sugar after funds flipped their position back to a 13.4k lots net long. The cocoa short was reduced by 10% while the coffee long received a 25% boost. Cotton’s 18% surge during the week helped lift the long by 35% to 44.7k lots.
A mixed week in forex left the speculative dollar long close to unchanged against ten IMM futures and the DXY. Selling of euro saw the net short reach a fresh 2-1/2-year high at 42.8k lots or €5.3 billion equivalent while renewed selling of JPY, despite trading higher during the reporting week, made up most of the increase in dollar length. Against these we saw short covering reduce CHF, GBP and MXN short while CAD net long reached a 14-month high.
The COT reports are issued by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the ICE Exchange Europe for Brent crude oil and gas oil. They are released every Friday after the U.S. close with data from the week ending the previous Tuesday. They break down the open interest in futures markets into different groups of users depending on the asset class.
Commodities: Producer/Merchant/Processor/User, Swap dealers, Managed Money and other
Financials: Dealer/Intermediary; Asset Manager/Institutional; Leveraged Funds and other
Forex: A broad breakdown between commercial and non-commercial (speculators)
The reasons why we focus primarily on the behavior of the highlighted groups are:
- They are likely to have tight stops and no underlying exposure that is being hedged
- This makes them most reactive to changes in fundamental or technical price developments
- It provides views about major trends but also helps to decipher when a reversal is looming
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