The Contango Report: Brent Remains in Backwardation

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 |  Includes: ADZ, AGA, AGF, BDD, BDG, BOM, BOS, CMD, CRBA, CRBI, CRBQ, DAG, DBA, DBB, DBC, DBE, DBP, DDP, DEE, DJCI, DJP, DPU, DYY, FUD, GCC, GLTR, GNR, GRES, GSC, GSG, GSP, HAP, IGE, JJA, JJE, JJM, JJP, JJS, LSC, MOO, PAGG, RJA, RJI, RJN, RJZ, UAG, UBM, UBN, UCD, UCI, USCI, WITE, XME
by: Hard Assets Investor

By Sumit Roy

Has oil moved into backwardation yet? What does corn's roll yield look like? How do you know when it's time to buy—or sell?

Each week, we investigate the futures curves of the U.S.' most important commodities, helping investors better understand the market and seize buy-and-sell opportunities as soon as they arise.

To see current contango curve and front-month roll costs for each of our selected commodities, please select a sector or commodity below (or read the whole report): Data from Feb. 28 to March 4, 2011
Data courtesy IndexUniverse.com

Energy

Precious Metals

Industrial Metals

Agricultural Commodities

Soft Commodities

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Commodity Roll Costs

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Energy

NYMEX WTI Crude Oil

WTI CrudeClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The WTI Crude Oil forward curve shifted significantly: The front-end features much smaller contango, and the back half is now in backwardation.

ROLL COSTS: In turn, the annualized cost to roll the front-month WTIs fell to 13 percent, or, in other words, close to 1 percent on a monthly basis. These costs are more in line with what we've seen over the last 52 weeks (right-hand-side chart).

BOTTOM LINE: Humpbacked Contango

ICE Brent Crude Oil

Brent CrudeClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: In contrast to WTI, Brent exhibits backwardation through the entire one-year forward curve.

ROLL COSTS: Brent's annualized front-month roll cost remains negative, meaning that investors get paid to hold the commodity. But this has come at the expense of increased volatility in oil prices themselves, which translates into greater risk (upside and downside).

BOTTOM LINE: Backwardation

NYMEX Henry Hub Natural Gas

H H Nymex natural GasClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The natural gas forward curve remains well-behaved, but has steepened steadily since the start of the year. As is typical, the winter months remain the steepest part of the curve.

ROLL COSTS: Annualized roll costs grew to 27 percent, the highest level of the year. Even so, these costs are quite low when compared with those of the last several years.

BOTTOM LINE: Contango

Precious Metals

COMEX Gold

Comex GoldClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The gold forward curve remains in mild, but steady contango.

ROLL COSTS: At 1 percent annualized, roll costs were steady from last week. As can be seen from the right-hand-side chart, monthly costs have fluctuated in a consistent 0.05 to 0.15 percent range over the past year.

BOTTOM LINE: Mild Contango

COMEX Silver

Comex SilverClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Silver's forward curve is virtually flat until December, after which it moves into backwardation.

ROLL COSTS: Annualized roll costs doubled to 0.76 percent, but as can be seen from the right-hand-side chart, remains toward the lower end of the 52-week range.

BOTTOM LINE: Flat to Backwardation

NYMEX Platinum

Nymex PlatinumClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The platinum forward curve is extremely choppy, but can still be best described as "flat."

ROLL COSTS: Rolling front-month platinum nets investors 1.04 percent annualized - an improvement from last week's 0.4 percent yield.

BOTTOM LINE: Flat

NYMEX Palladium

Nymex PalladiumClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The back half of the palladium forward curve shifted higher, with prices now in mild contango through early 2012.

ROLL COSTS: Rolling front-month palladium got slightly cheaper, but the metal remains the most expensive to roll of all the precious metals.

BOTTOM LINE: Mild Contango

Industrial Metals

LME Copper

LME CopperClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Copper remains in contango through September 2011 before shifting into backwardation thereafter.

ROLL COSTS: Rolling front-month copper contracts costs an annualized 0.85 percent, a modest sum but a far cry from only a couple months ago, when investors would get paid to hold the metal.

BOTTOM LINE: Humpbacked Contango

LME Aluminum

LME AluminumClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The aluminum forward curve remains in steady and consistent contango.

ROLL COSTS: Front-month roll costs edged slightly higher, to 4.7 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Steady Contango

LME Zinc

LME ZincClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Like aluminum, zinc remains in steady contango through the entire forward curve.

ROLL COSTS: Rolling front-month zinc contracts dipped slightly to 4.03 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Steady Contango

LME Lead

LME LeadClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Unlike aluminum or zinc, lead exhibits backwardation through the rest of the year, before flattening out in early 2012.

ROLL COSTS: Rolling front-month lead nets investors 1.4 percent annualized, which, while still attractive, is below the extremely compelling levels from a couple weeks ago (right-hand-side chart).

BOTTOM LINE: Steady Backwardation

LME Nickel

LME NickelClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The nickel forward curve remains virtually flat before shifting to steady backwardation after August.

ROLL COSTS: Investors pay 0.42 percent annualized to hold nickel contracts, up slightly from last week's 0.33 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Flat to Backwardation

LME Tin

LME TinClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Tin's futures curve exhibits slight contango for near-term delivery dates, but as the curve stretches past summer 2011, it flips into steady backwardation.

ROLL COSTS: Tin's roll costs were little changed week-over-week at 0.27 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Flat to Backwardation

Agricultural Commodities

CBOT Corn

CBOT CornClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: he corn forward curve flattened further, but the general pattern remains unchanged from last week, with contango at the front end and backwardation through the fall and winter months.

ROLL COSTS: Corn's annualized front-month roll cost fell to a new 52-week low of 5.8 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Contango to Backwardation


CBOT Wheat

CBOT WheatClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Wheat exhibits obvious contango through the next year's worth of active contracts.

ROLL COSTS: Wheat's annualized front-month roll cost fell slightly to 26 percent, but remains steep by any measure.

BOTTOM LINE: Unrelenting Contango

CBOT Soybeans

CBOT SoybeansClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Soybeans remain in contango through July before moving into backwardation.

ROLL COSTS: On an annualized basis, roll costs fell to 2.7 percent from 3 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Contango to Backwardation

CME Live Cattle

CME Live CattleClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Live cattle remains in contango through August, after which the forward curve flattens out.

ROLL COSTS: Front-month roll costs halved from last week to 11 percent from 20 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Humpbacked Contango

CME Lean Hogs

CME Lean HogsClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Lean hogs are in steep seasonal contango.

ROLL COSTS: The annualized roll, while steep now, should level off starting next month.

BOTTOM LINE: Humpbacked Contango

Soft Commodities

ICE Coffee

ICE CoffeeClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The coffee forward curve flattened on the front end this week, but its overall shape has stayed the same.

ROLL COSTS: Annualized front-month roll costs for coffee increased significantly, but remain in negative territory.

BOTTOM LINE: Backwardation to Flat

ICE Cocoa

ICE CocoaClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Cocoa exhibits strong backwardation through the rest of the active 2011 contracts.

ROLL COSTS: Investors may make less on their front-month roll this week, but they can still net an attractive 6.32 percent annualized on the roll.

BOTTOM LINE: Backwardation

ICE Sugar #11

ICE SugarClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: The sugar forward curve exhibits extremely steep backwardation, rivaled only by cotton.

ROLL COSTS: Investors net a very attractive 64 percent positive roll yield from holding sugar contracts.

BOTTOM LINE: Steep Backwardation

ICE Cotton #2

ICE CottonClick to enlarge
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CONTANGO WATCH: Cotton futures are in backwardation, but the front of the curve flattened. The steepest part of the curve remains between July and October.

ROLL COSTS: The cotton annualized roll yield fell notably to 7 percent from 28 percent last week.

BOTTOM LINE: Steep Backwardation