COT: Bullish commodity bets hit record low in week to Sept. 3

Ole Hansen

Head of Commodity Strategy

Summary:  Speculators cut bullish commodity bets to a record low just before the biggest one-day price jump since November. Short positions exist across most agriculture commodities while precious metals continued to be bought ahead of an abrupt change in sentiment driven by renewed trade hopes and weaker dollar.


Saxo Bank publishes two weekly Commitment of Traders reports (COT) covering leveraged fund positions in commodities, bonds and stock index futures. For IMM currency futures and the VIX, we use the broader measure called non-commercial.

The below summary highlights futures positions and changes made by hedge funds across 24 major commodity futures up until last Tuesday, September 3. This was the day when the market hit peak pessimism in response to the September 1 tariff hikes, Hong Kong and Brexit jitters. Developments which led to several false breakouts and subsequent reversals across several key markets from bonds, stocks and dollar to oil, copper and not least precious metals.

During the week speculators cut bullish bets to a record low of 38,605 lots. This just before the Bloomberg Commodity Index jumped the most since November. The agriculture sector continued to be sold with net-short positions being held in all but a couple of livestock contracts. Once again it was corn, wheat and sugar that was hardest hit with the latter reaching a fresh record of 189,100 lots. Crude oil traders made only small adjustments while precious and platinum group metals were bought

Precious metals continued to be bought ahead of the abrupt sentiment change towards the end of last week. The gold net-long surpassed the record from the previous week after rising by 2,858 lots to 290,709 lots. The 9% increase in the silver net-long to 63,466 was a relatively small response during a week where the metal rallied by 5%. This was also highlighted in the breakdown between long and short positions which showed that most of the increased was driven by short-covering not fresh longs. The 10% rally in platinum meanwhile led to a 169% jump in the net-long to 22,774 lots. Copper was close to unchanged with fresh long and short position being added as the contract temporarily hit a new two-year low

The combined net-long in WTI (-14k) and Brent (+18k) crude oil rose by 4k lots to 410,493 lots with speculators going in opposite directions for a second week. The net long has hardly moved during the past three months with Brent struggling to break away from $60/b and WTI away from $55/b. The improved technical outlook towards the end of last week however could add support to prices into a week full with oil market related events and news.

First up the market has to gauge the impact - if any - of the weekend announcement from Saudi Arabia that Prince Abdulaziz has taken over the energy ministry from Khalid Al-Falih. While we expect limited market impact it may still highlight the growing unease about an oil price stuck more than 20 dollars below the Kingdom's desired level. The new energy ministers will be attending the World Energy Congress (@WECongress) in Abu Dhabi before joining the OPEC+ JMMC meeting on Thursday. Apart from the weekly US stock report the three major forecasters EIA tomorrow,  OPEC on Wednesday and IEA on Thursday while all publish their monthly oil market reports. 

RBOB Gasoline saw the biggest change with a 31% reduction cutting the net-long to 41,807 lots, a two-year low.

Short positions across the three major crops reached 213,535 lots with the upcoming US harvest adding to bulging supplies while competition from other growers in South America and Europe remains due to the strong dollar and trade war with China.

In sugar the drop to 11 cents/lb, a one-year low, helped drive the net-short to a fresh record of 189,100 lots. India is preparing to dump subsidised stocks onto the global market in order to bring down bulging stockpiles. 

What is the Commitments of Traders report?

The Commitments of Traders (COT) report is issued by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) every Friday at 15:30 EST with data from the week ending the previous Tuesday. The report breaks down the open interest across major futures markets from bonds, stock index, currencies and commodities. The ICE Futures Europe Exchange issues a similar report, also on Fridays, covering Brent crude oil and gas oil.

In commodities, the open interest is broken into the following categories: Producer/Merchant/Processor/User; Swap Dealers; Managed Money and other.

In financials the categories are Dealer/Intermediary; Asset Manager/Institutional; Managed Money and other.

Our focus is primarily on the behaviour of Managed Money traders such as commodity trading advisors (CTA), commodity pool operators (CPO), and unregistered funds.

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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