Energy: Crude oil, both Brent and WTI, were sold ahead of the coordinated SPR release announcement last Tuesday. The combined net long dropped by 14k lots to a one-year low at 514.6k lots. The loss of price momentum during the past few months has, despite an overriding bullish sentiment in the market, been driving the reduction, and following Friday's 10% price collapse these traders have been rewarded for sticking to the signals the market was sending instead of listening to bullish price forecasts. Hedge funds are not "married" to their positions hence their better ability to respond to changes in the technical and/or fundamental outlook.
Metals: Having increase bullish gold bets by 65k lots during the previous two weeks, funds were forced to make 45k lots reduction last week in response to the Powell renomination sending gold sharply lower and below support in the $1830-35 area. Speculators have been whipsawed by the price action in recent weeks and it helps to explain why they are in no mood to reenter in size despite renewed support from Covid19 angst. Silver's 6% sell off during the week helped trigger a 17% reduction in the net long to 30k lots while in copper a small price increase was not enough to stem the slide in net length. Following seven weeks of selling, the net length has dropped by 64% to 19.5k lots, a 13-week low. Months of rangebound behaviour has reduced investor focus, and until we see High Grade Copper make an attempt to break its current $4.2 to $4.5 range, the level of positioning is likely to remain muted.
Agriculture: More concerned with other drivers such as weather, strong demand and supply chain disruptions helped trigger across the board buying of all 13 futures contracts split into grains, softs and livestock. The combined long held across these contracts reached a six-month high at 1.13 million lots, representing a nominal value of $43.5 billion. Buying was broad with the top three being corn, sugar and soybeans. Elsewhere the net long in Arabica coffee reached a fresh five-year high at 58k lots and KCB wheat a four-year high at 65.6k lots.
UPDATES from today's Market Quick Take
Crude oil (OILUKJAN22 & OILUSJAN21) turned sharply lower in early European trading as the mood across markets soured on renewed concerns about the omicron virus strain. This after Moderna’s head told the Financial Times that existing vaccines will be less effective at tackling omicron and it may take months before variant-specific jabs are available at scale. The news come days before the OPEC+ group of producers meet to discuss production levels for January. Brent crude oil already heading for its biggest monthly loss since March 2020 trades below its 200-day moving average for the first time in a year, a sign that more weakness may lie ahead, thereby raising the prospect for OPEC+ deciding to pause or perhaps even make a temporary production cut.
Gold (XAUUSD) received a muted bid overnight in response to the omicron virus comments from the head of Moderna (see oil section above). In addition, comments from Fed chair Powell helped reduced 2022 rate expectations from three to two after he said the omicron virus posed risks to both sides of the central bank’s mandate for stable prices and maximum employment. Despite this development together with softer Treasury yields and a weaker dollar, gold continues to struggle attracting a safe-haven bid. Silver (XAGUSD) looks even worse having dropped to a six-week low on weakness spilling over from industrial metals.