COT: Speculators rotate towards crude oil and natgas
Head of Commodity Strategy
Summary: This COT report highlights futures positions and changes made by hedge funds across commodities, forex and financials up until last Tuesday, January 11. A week that saw continued stock market weakness and rising bond, albeit at a much reduced pace after Jerome Powell pledged to do what’s necessary to reduced inflation while at the same time prolonging the economic expansion. The dollar traded weaker ahead of last Wednesday’s, thereby supporting a strong rally in commodities led by energy and industrial metals.
This summary highlights futures positions and changes made by hedge funds across commodities, forex and financials up until last Tuesday, January 11. A week that saw continued stock market weakness and rising bond, albeit at a much reduced pace after Jerome Powell pledged to do what’s necessary to reduced inflation while at the same time prolonging the economic expansion. The dollar traded weaker ahead of last Wednesday’s, thereby supporting a strong rally in commodities led by energy and industrial metals.
The Bloomberg Commodity Index jumped 2.2% during the reporting week to January 11 with a 6.3% gain in energy and 1.2% in industrial metals offsetting weakness across the agriculture sector which with the exception of coffee and cocoa saw broad losses led by sugar and hogs. Responding to these developments, money managers accumulated fresh longs across the energy sector, not least in crude oil, while cutting back on exposure across all other sectors.
In crude oil, the combined net long in Brent and WTI jumped by the most since November 2020 to reach 538k lots or 538 million barrels, still well below the most recent peak at 737k lots from last June. A US cold blast helped send natural gas up by 14% and the net long up by 30% to 163k lots.
In the other sectors of metals and agriculture, speculators opted to reduce their exposure with the few exceptions being soybeans, cocoa and coffee. Rangebound HG copper as an example saw its net long reduced by 15% to 22.2k lots, primarily due to increased short selling, some of which were probably stopped out during the failed breakout attempt above $4.47 towards the end of last week. Gold and silver both saw net selling , while the platinum short jumped 86%.
In agriculture, speculators increased their long positions in all three soybeans contract, the corn long was cut by 6% while the CBOT wheat short jumped by 40% to an 18-month high. In softs, the sugar long continued to be cut, this time by 61.6k lots to 76.5k lots, and since hitting a cycle peak last August the net long has now been reduced by 72% to a near 18 month low. Cocoa flipped back to a small net long, the coffee long rose 4% while the cotton long was cut by a similar percentage.
Market comments from today’s Market Quick Take:
Crude oil (OILUSFEB22 & OILUKMAR22) trades mixed with Brent crude oil briefly challenging the double-top at $86.75, a seven-year high, before having a rethink as China GDP and retail sales slowed amid ongoing measures to curb the spreading of the omicron variant. The prompt spreads in WTI and Brent remain elevated at 63 and 74 cents per barrel, thereby signaling rising tightness. Later this week monthly Oil Market Reports from OPEC on Tuesday and IEA on Wednesday will shed some further light on the current situation. Speculators, a little late to the recent rally, boosted bullish oil bets in WTI and Brent bets by the most in 14 months last week.
Copper (COPPERMAR22) slid the most in seven weeks on Friday as weaker-than-expected U.S. economic data (see below) together with weakness in China added to concerns that global growth may slowing amid rising inflation and the spreading virus. High Grade’s drop back below $4.50 triggered some stop loss selling from recently established longs before stabilizing overnight after China, the world’s top consumer, cut rates to support its economy. The worry over tight supplies, however, has not gone away and should cushion any short-term weakness.
Gold (XAUUSD) remains resilient despite Friday’s renewed surge in bond yields as the market continues to price in the prospect of rising US interest rates, potentially at a more aggressive pace than previously expected. Support continues to build in the $1800-area while a break above $1830 could see it target $1850 ahead of the November peak at $1877.
In forex, the major flow was selling of JPY, where the net short increased by 25.3k lot or the equivalent of $2.7bn. Additional selling of AUD (-2.1k lots) took the net short to a fresh record short at 91.5k lots. The EUR position flipped back to a net long after speculators bought 7.6k lots while the GBP short was reduced by 26%. Overall, the dollar long against ten IMM currency futures and the Doller Index rose by a small 1% to $23.5 billion.
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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