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Commodity correction may have exhausted itself

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The correction that for some commodities already started back in March has since the end of July increasingly been showing signs of reversing. According to the Bloomberg commodity sector indices, the correction period triggered peak to bottom moves of 41 per cent in industrial metals, 31 per cent in grains and 27 per cent in energy. The main reason for the dramatic correction following a record run of strong gains was the change in focus from tight supply to worries about demand.

Apart from China’s slowing growth outlook due to its zero-Covid policy and housing market crisis hitting industrial metals, the most important driver has been the way in which central banks around the world have been stepping up efforts to curb runaway inflation by forcing down economic activity through aggressively tightening monetary conditions. This process is ongoing but recent economic data strength, dollar weakness and signs inflation may have peaked have all helped support markets that have gone through weeks and in some cases months of sharp price declines, and with that an aggressive amount of long liquidation from financial traders as well as selling from macro-focused funds looking for a hedge against an economic downturn.

An economic slowdown, or in a worst-case scenario a recession, would normally trigger a surplus of raw materials as demand falters and production is slow to respond to a downturn in demand. However, during the past three months of selling, the cost of commodities for immediate delivery has maintained a healthy premium above prices for later deliveries.

Crude oil: The downward trending price action in WTI and Brent for the past couple of months is showing signs of reversing on a combination of the market reassessing the demand outlook amid continued worries about supply and who will and can meet demand going forward. The recovery from below $95 in Brent and $90 in WTI this week was supported by signs of softer US inflation reducing the potential peak in the Fed fund rates, thereby improving the growth outlook. In addition, the weaker dollar and improving demand, especially in the US where gasoline prices at the pumps have fallen below $4 per gallon for the first time since March.

In addition, the International Energy Agency (IEA) lifted its global consumption estimate by 380 kb/d, saying soaring gas prices amid strong demand for electricity is driving utilities to switch from expensive gas to fuel-based products. Meanwhile, OPEC may struggle to raise output in the coming months due to limited spare capacity. While pockets of demand weakness have emerged in recent months, we do not expect these to materially impact on our overall price-supportive outlook. Supply-side uncertainties remain too elevated to ignore, not least considering the soon-to-expire releases of crude oil from US Strategic Reserves and the EU embargo of Russian oil fast approaching. With this in mind, we maintain our $95 to $115 range forecast for the third quarter.

Gold was heading for a fourth weekly gain, supported by a weaker dollar after the lower-than-expected US CPI and PPI data helped reduce expectations for how high the Fed will allow rates to run. However, rising risk appetite as seen through surging stocks and bond yields trading higher on the week have so far prevented the yellow metal from making a decisive challenge at key resistance above $1800/oz, and the recent decline in ETF holdings and low open interest in COMEX futures points to a market that is looking for a fresh and decisive trigger. We believe the markets newfound optimism about the extent to which inflation can successfully be brought under control remains too optimistic and together with several geopolitical worries, we see no reason to exit our long-held bullish view on gold as a hedge and diversifier.

The grains sector traded at a five-week high ahead of Friday’s supply and demand report from the US Department of Agriculture. The Bloomberg Grains Index continues to recover following its 28 per cent June to July correction with gains this past week being led by wheat and corn in response to a weaker dollar and not least hot and dry weather in the US and another heatwave in Europe raising concerns about yield and production. Hot and dry weather at a critical stage for yield developments ahead of the soon-to-be-harvested crop has given the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report some additional attention with surveys pointing to price support with the prospect of lower yields lowering expectations for the level of available stocks ahead of the coming winter.

Ole Hansen

Head of Commodity Strategy at Saxo Bank

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