"Citi is especially bullish commodities for 2017," say Ed Morse and team. "The oil market is treading water for now, but the oil price overshot to the downside earlier this year and this is clearly setting the stage for a bullish end to the decade.”
Unlike last year's strong Q2 commodity rally which collapsed in Q3, this year's move looks more sustainable thanks to considerable tightening in physical markets.
"Global demand continues to grow at a moderate rate while the pullback in capital spending is reducing not just supply growth but total supplies across nearly all extractive industries.”
What about Brexit? The damage to global growth should be limited in extent and duration this year, and stronger growth in the U.S. and China will be the story in 2017.
Recent advances aren't rooted in fundamentals, says Barclays analyst Kevin Norrish, in a report titled "Buffalo Jump." The risk, he says, is that the investing herd may very quickly decide to ring the register on recent gains.
Copper (NYSEARCA:JJC) could fall 20% and oil could drop back to the low $30s.
“Key commodities markets such as oil and copper already face overhangs of excess production capacity and inventories, but also now face another obstacle in the recovery process, that of positioning, which is now approaching bullish extremes."
That bright green across the screen isn't in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Instead, it's a strong bid for commodities and foreign currencies after the Fed yesterday cut its forecast for rate hikes this year to two from four.
This just in: Crude oil (NYSEARCA:USO) is up on the year, rising 1.6% today to $40.63.
Other movers: Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) +3.25% to $1,270. Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) +3.4% to $15.74, Copper (NYSEARCA:JJC) +2,5% to $2.29, Platinum (PPLT, PTM) +3% to $988, Lumber (NASDAQ:WOOD) +3.5% to $297, Beans (NYSEARCA:SOYB) +0.6% to $899.50, Corn (NYSEARCA:CORN) +0.5% to $370.25, Wheat (NYSEARCA:WEAT) +0.85% to $475.
The euro (NYSEARCA:FXE) +1.15%, yen (NYSEARCA:FXY) +1.3%, pound (NYSEARCA:FXB) +0.85%, loonie (NYSEARCA:FXC) +1.15%, aussie (NYSEARCA:FXA) +1.3%, swissie (NYSEARCA:FXF) +1%.
Among those hit hardest are sugar, nickel, and natural gas, while gold, palladium, and beans have held up better (only on a relative basis).
No secret here: China is (by far) the world's largest consumer in nearly every global commodity market, so discerning where that country's demand is headed is key. On that note, the price action in copper - which has a pretty good correlation to China's economy - suggests GDP growth there of just 5% vs. the government's official estimate of 7%.
Still, prices for many commodities - copper among them - are approaching the point where they're better left in the ground. The conclusion, says Barclays: A bottom may be in, but we could be on the floor for a long time.
In an effort to increase its influence on global commodity prices, China will allow outside traders to transfer foreign currency or yuan funds into China to trade on its commodity futures markets, signifying a major reform for the world's top consumer of many raw materials.
Currently, foreigners have very limited access to China's commodities markets. Companies are only allowed to trade via brokers after establishing a locally registered non-financial unit, which is expensive.
Starting August 1, trading or brokerage firms can open special accounts in designated Chinese banks. The funds must be used for trading only.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission says that the Shanghai Futures Exchange's crude oil futures will be the first contract available for trading by foreigners. They may also apply for a direct trading license with the exchange. No information on the timing of access to additional futures contracts is available.
"China’s economic transition and the inability of other emerging markets to pick up the slack are driving slower demand growth across the commodities complex,” says the team at Citi. "The extent of slowdown is likely to vary by commodity.”
Hardest hit, says Citi, will be bulk commodities like coal, iron ore, and steel thanks to their exposure to China's manufacturing, infrastructure, and property sectors.
Oil consumption growth in China and the "Emerging 5" - India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa - will be 2.7% from 2014-2020, and 2.3% from 2020-2025 vs. 4% from 2001-2011.
The upside from China no longer being as dominant: “Global demand as a whole should become less cyclical as a downturn in one key economy has a lesser impact on overall demand."
Notable for being at the bottom of the list for what is now three years running are commodities, which fell 18.6% in 2014, following an 11.1% decline in 2013, and a 2.1% drop the year before that. Will the last become first?
A tough year for commodity prices continues all the way into the close of the last session, with precious metals, energy, grains, and most of the softs slumping sharply. 2014's big commodity winner, naturally, stands alone in the green today - coffee is up 2%.
The PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracker (DBC -1.9%)
Alongside the commodity slump, both this year and this session, is a stronger dollar, set to close 2014 out at its highest level in at least five years.
The PowerShares DB Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy Portfolio (NASDAQ:PDBC) offers broad commodity futures contracts through a Cayman Islands-based unit, which allows its investors to avoid K-1 tax forms.
This is a key feature to the fund; K-1 forms can be a burden for investors as they potentially delay filings and may require investors to report and pay taxes on gains annually, even if the security has not been sold.
This is the 4th actively managed ETF from Invesco (NYSE:IVZ), which now offers 165 funds for investors.
With most asset classes at or near record levels, no one seems to want commodities - oil is at just $80 per barrel, gold just took out a multi-year low, and corn is off more than 50% from its 2012 high. Contrarians may want to take a look, writes Andrew Bary in Barron's, noting commodity markets tend to be self-correcting - lower prices cool production and stimulate demand.
Low rates help too: The opportunity cost of holding commodities, and the price of rolling forward contracts is reduced.
Bary also reminds that much of the institutional money which was in love with commodities in 2008 (with oil at $140 per barrel) has exited. The Harvard endowment, for instance, has scaled back its commodity exposure to zero from 8% six years ago.
Another sign of the times: Fidelity cut direct commodity exposure in its Freedom target-date mutual funds last year, with the Fidelity Freedom 2030 fund (MUTF:FFFEX) dropping its commodity weighting to 1.2% from 7.5%.
The iShares Commodities Select Strategy ETF (NASDAQ:COMT) currently holds 21 futures contracts and stock from 180 commodity producers, and the fund manager will use a futures "roll process" to minimize the negative impacts of contango, and will seek to benefit from backwardation, where possible.
The fee of 0.48% per year compares favorably with many actively managed ETFs.