COT: Dollar and metals sold, energy bought ahead of FOMC
Head of Commodity Strategy
Summary: Futures positions and changes made by hedge funds across commodities, forex, bonds and stock indices up until last Tuesday, June 15. A week that covered the period up until last week's FOMC meeting and the hawkish surprise it delivered. Apart from a weaker dollar which attracted additional short selling some of the other markets, most noticeable commodities had already started to see rising risk adversity, most noticeable in metals and agriculture.
The below summary highlights futures positions and changes made by hedge funds across commodities, forex and financials up until last Tuesday, June 15. A week that covered the period up until last week’s FOMC meeting and the hawkish surprise it delivered. Apart from a weaker dollar which attracted additional short selling, some of the other markets, most noticeable commodities had already started to see rising risk adversity, while bond yields crept lower before starting a rollercoaster ride which eventually today has led it back to unchanged pre-FOMC levels. The Bloomberg commodity index traded softer by 2.2% as the rotation out of agriculture and metals into energy continued.
The commodity sector saw a small amount of net selling ahead of last week’s FOMC meeting, but behind the 1% reduction to 2.4 million lots we found a week where speculators continued to rotate out of agriculture and metals, both industrial and precious, and into energy, especially crude oil. Chinese efforts to curb industrial metal prices, lower gold prices on reduced inflation expectations as the market “buy” into the transitory message from central banks, and improved weather and growing conditions in the U.S. have all led to long liquidation and reduced appetite for exposure in these sectors.
Energy: The combined net long in oil and fuel products (ex. natural gas) reached 977k lots, the biggest bet on rising energy prices since October 2018. While industrial metals have suffered what looks like a short-term setback on rising market intervention by Chinese authorities and reduced focus on reflation, the energy sector has increasingly become the go to commodities. This in the belief that OPEC+ in the near-term will maintain market tightness as global demand continues to recover, and later on due to increased concerns that lack of CAPEX spent on new production could leave the market undersupplied from late 2022 and onwards.
The combined net long Brent and WTI crude oil reached 737k lots, again a level of exposure that was last exceeded in October 2018. A tightening spread to Brent and speculation that storage levels at Cushing, the WTI futures delivery hub, could shrink further amid strong Midwest refinery demand helped drive a 35% reduction in the gross short, thereby supporting a spike in the long/short ratio to a three-year high at 22.8 longs per one short position. While highlighting the risk a market at risk of becoming one-sided it also shows the strong belief in higher prices currently being exhibited by investors.
Metals: Bullish gold bets were scaled back for a second week with profit taking and fresh short selling emerging ahead of the FOMC meeting and following the recent rejection above $1900. The 10% reduction reduced the net long to 114k lots, a four week low. Silver saw a small amount of buying while copper longs were cut to just 20k lots, a one-year low and some 71k lots below the peak from last October. Once the weak technical outlook, supported by an expected improvement in the fundamental outlook, starts turning the price may see a strong bounce from buyers returning.
Agriculture: The grain and soybean sector continued to deflate with speculators cutting the combined net long in corn, wheat and soybeans by 15% to 352k lots, the lowest since last October. While the wheat net-short extended to 8.4k lots it was corn and not least soybeans that saw most of the selling. This on a combination of improved weather raising production expectations and potentially a reduction in demand for biofuels to be blended with gasoline.
In forex, the flows across ten IMM currency futures and the Dollar Index were very mixed but overall they resulted in continued dollar selling with the net short reaching a three-month high at $19.3 billion
However, as can be seen from the table below, speculators were in general risk-off mode across the major pairs with both long and short positions being reduced. This just the day before the FOMC sprung a hawkish surprise which helped send the Greenback sharply higher to record its fourth straight week of gains, thereby challenging the short dollar consensus trade.
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
Latest Market Insights
Outrageous Predictions 2023: The War Economy
- The constantly growing global need for energy drives the world's richest to huddle up and launch a R&D project in a size the world hasn't seen since the Manhattan Project gave the US the first atomic bomb.
French President Macron resignsThe political stalemate in France and the rise of Marie Le Pen following the 2022 elections corners President Macron, forcing him to give up on politics and resign from his position. At least for now.
Gold rockets to USD 3,000 as central banks fail on inflation mandateAs markets and central banks realise that the idea that inflation is transitory is wrong, and that prices will remain higher for longer, gold is sent through the roof, hitting a price tag of USD 3,000
EU Army forces EU down path to full unionWith continued challenges in the region and a US military that isn't aggressively enacting its former role as global policeman, the European Union agrees to create its own armed forces, bringing the whole region closer.
A country agrees to ban all meat production by 2030In an effort to become one of the global leaders on the path to net-zero emissions, one country decides to not only put a heavy tax on meat, but to ban domestic production entirely.
UK holds UnBrexit referendumFollowing a recession and domestic pressure, the United Kingdom is thrown into political turmoil that will end with a vote to wind back Brexit.
Widespread price controls are introduced to cap official inflationHistory tells us that with the war economy comes rationing and price controls. And this time is no different, as policymakers introduce strict price controls that lead to a range of unintended consequences.
OPEC+ & Chindia walk out of the IMF, agree to trade with new reserve assetSanctions against Russia have caused widespread turmoil due to US Dollar moves in countries across the globe that don't consider the US an ally. To relieve themselves from this, they leave the IMF and create a new reserve asset.
USDJPY fixed to the USD at 200 as Japan overhauls financial systemFollowing the challenges that faced the Japanese Yen in 2022, the Bank of Japan attempts to keep the currency from sliding. Unsuccessful on the long-term, Japan will launch a reset of its entire financial system.
Tax haven ban kills private equityWith the war economy comes an increased focus on national interests and sovereign nations' ability to assert themselves. In that regard, the OECD countries turn their attention on tax havens and pull the big guns out, banning them altogether.