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Risk Appetite and Data Support Crudes Surge to New Highs Yet Conviction Does Not Hold

Risk Appetite and Data Support Crudes Surge to New Highs Yet Conviction Does Not Hold

2010-03-10 23:30:00
John Kicklighter, Chief Currency Strategist

North American Commodity Update

Commodities - Energy

Risk Appetite and Data Support Crudes Surge to New Highs Yet Conviction Does Not Hold

Crude Oil (LS NYMEX) - $81.85 // $0.36 // 0.44%

Risk appetite, macro data and supply-and-demand statistics seemed to align for bullish crude traders. Yet despite begin given the fundamental green light (and notably still backed by impressive buying momentum over the past month), the active crude futures contract on the NYMEX was forced to retrace its morning thrust to a fresh, eight-week high just above $83. Whether using a fundamental, technical, sentiment or hedge-based trading approach, every active market participant is conscious of the $84 swing high set back on January 11th and its status as a 16-month high for the market. Surpassing this level could easily banish uncertainty and encourage sidelined investment; but truly extending a bull trend for this commodity will require a broad improvement in investor sentiment and a clear shift in production and consumption fundamentals. As for sentiment, the dollar was lower and equities were modestly higher; but it was obvious that the sparks of risk appetite are not catching. Whether a turn in the markets itself or a prominent economic catalyst is responsible for the inevitable restoration of speculative interest remains to be seen.

For actual drive, today’s fundamentals offered the better source of momentum – though this wouldn’t actually pan out as one would expect. Through the morning, the top headline was the report from China that its exports had surged 46 percent – suggesting global activity was accelerating and economies would require fuel to keep the expansion in place. During the European hours, there were two conflicting reports. Germany reported its crude reserves were 20 percent larger than initially estimated due to deposits reported in the Upper Rhine region. Counteracting this potential supply boost from Europe’s largest economy, OPEC raised its global consumption expectations for the year and upgraded its output projections by 190,000 barrels to 28.94 million barrels per day. Come the active US trading session, traders had hoped that the US Department of Energy inventory figures would be able to break the offsetting nature of the early data. Following the yesterday’s 6.5 million barrel increase from the API report, expectations were probably set higher for the DoE account than the 2.0 million rise expected. In fact, the 1.432 million barrel pickup through March 5th was smaller than expected; and there was a notable 3.181 million barrel and 2.796 million barrel contraction in gasoline and distillate inventories respectively. Furthermore, total fuel consumption rose 0.2 percent to an August high 19.7 million barrels. Nevertheless, with this weekly increase, we have see the longest period of expansion in crude holdings since May and the highest overall stockpiles at 353 million barrels since August.


Watch our weekly, live coverage of the DoE Inventory figures every Wednesday beginning at 10:15 AM EST.

Commodities - Metals

The Dollar Drops and Chinese Inflation Accelerates while Gold Tumbles

Spot Gold - $1,107.66 // -$14.19 // -1.26%

It seemed a dichotomy in nature. The US dollar was on the retreat and China reported remarkable levels of inflation; and yet, gold would tumble on the day. In fact, the commodity was little changed through most of the session; but there was a remarkable swing during the early trading hours of the US session that measured 2.7 percent in a mere two hours. This jump in activity notably pushed the market to lows not seen in over a week and ultimately broke a loose but untested rising channel for the past month. For fundamental encouragement, the precious metal had a few contradictory dynamics to account for. Running astray of the commodity’s role as a dollar hedge, the decline in the US dollar through much of the day ultimately roused little impetus for price action. Furthermore, the currency’s penchant for playing safe haven seems to fit the assurances of former EU Commission President Prodi who suggested the Greece crisis had passed and other European economies would not follow in its path. However, there are two inconsistencies here. First, Prodi is no longer standing President; so he is entitled to black-and-white assessments; and gold itself has recently taken on a value of safe haven asset due to its value as an alternative to fiat currency with sovereign debt risk as inflated as it is. In the end, neither risk appetite nor credit stability were particularly strong; and long-standing concerns are still certainly engrained. Another questionable driver was China’s report of inflation. The government reported home prices grew at their fastest pace in nearly two years in recent data. This would seemingly support a demand for gold as an inflation hedge; but the implications this price growth has for an asset bubble and instability in the Chinese economy more than compensates for the bullish sentiment that can be derived from this data.

Spot Silver - $16.98 // -$0.28 // -1.62%

Just as surely as the dollar would retrace its gains yesterday, the currency would recover much of its losses today. In the end, this would leave highly-sensitive silver with a mute, dominant fundamental driver. From speculative readings, equities and other key markets were slowly building in favor of growth-linked performance. Nonetheless, this precious metal would take its cues from gold and close its worst daily performance in two weeks. Looking at speculative demand, iShares (the largest ETF backed by silver) reported its holdings were unchanged at 9,351 tons following two sales of 61 tons a piece over the past week.


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Written by John Kicklighter, Strategist
Questions or Comments about this article? Send them to jkicklighter@dailyfx.com

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