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Commodity hedge funds bear longest losing streak on record

19 Jul

Funds betting on commodity price moves have lost money every month since January, their joint longest losing streak on record, raising more doubts about their ability to make money at a time when the commodity “supercycle” may be over.

The average fund slid 3.58 percent in the first six months of the year, according to a widely watched Newedge commodity index. Funds have only suffered five consecutive losing months once before, in 2002-2003, the index shows.

Hedge funds market themselves as capable of making money in all markets, yet funds trading commodities as varied as gold, grains and gas, have failed to turn an annual profit in the last three years.

The weak performance will put more pressure on the industry to lower fees and introduce clawbacks, which enable investors to reclaim some performance perks paid to hedge fund managers in boom times if the returns they hope to achieve fail to continue.

Worries about cooling demand in key markets like China, and a huge shift in the supply-side from shortage to glut, has sent prices tumbling in recent years, and left many warning that the end of the commodity “supercycle” – the long period of rising commodity prices – is here.

“Historically most of these funds have been a levered beta play on the commodity cycle, or in some cases arbitrageurs of commodity spreads,” Michele Gesualdi, portfolio manager at hedge fund investor Kairos, said.

“The end of the supercycle has hurt the first area, while the volatility and discrepancies that have arisen in forward markets have made life difficult for the second.”

Adding to the sector’s woes, hedge funds which trade other asset classes such as equities have rebounded this year, including those that trade mining and energy shares.

The USD 1 billion fund of Clive Capital, a firm which trades oil and ran about USD 5 billion at its peak, is down 3.5 percent to June 28, performance data shows. Krom River’s Commodity Fund has lost 4.4 percent to end-June, while Brevan Howard’s Commodities Strategies Fund is off 2.5 percent to June 28.

Krom River’s chief executive Itay Simkin said that despite falling prices, commodities were still a very good investment due to production problems, urbanisation, decent economic growth rates and a lack of forward investment in mining.

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Other funds mentioned in this story either declined to comment or could not immediately be reached for comment.

Funds trading bullion are nursing some of the heaviest losses. Gold has tumbled this year on expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut back on its money-printing programme, which had driven gold to record highs.

John Paulson, the billionaire U.S. investor, has seen his gold fund, his smallest with USD 300 million in assets, plunge 23 percent in June and is down 65 percent this year.

Despite the losses, most managers are not down as much as commodity prices this year – the 19-commodity Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index fell 5.7 percent through end-June.

Some have also shone. After losing 30 percent in 2011 and 7.6 percent and a big chunk of his assets in 2012, Mike Coleman’s Merchant Commodity Fund is up 24.2 percent this year.

But the bigger concern for commodity funds is proving they can consistently make money amid a sustained downward trend in prices.

The problem, investors and managers say, is that the long, gradual trend of rising prices has been replaced with shorter, more uncertain trends, in which prices can plunge suddenly, making it difficult to profit from their slide.

Commodity prices, down 22 percent from a 2011 peak, have entered bear market territory, while volatility – which some funds thrive on – has also fallen, challenging managers further.

Oil Down Slightly in Asia

18 Jul

Oil futures traded modestly lower in the early part of Thursday’s Asian session as traders in the region digested a swath of key central bank and data points out of the U.S. Wednesday.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for September delivery fell 0.14% to USD106.21 per barrel in Asian trading Thursday.

Crude traded slightly higher Wednesday in the U.S. after the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 6.9 million barrels in the week ended July 12, blowing past expectations for a decline of 2 million barrels.

mcx crude oil

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 367.0 million barrels as of last week. The report also showed that total motor gasoline inventories increased by 3.1 million barrels, confounding expectations for an decline of 0.5 million barrels.

Oil also got a small lift after the Fed’s Beige Book business survey, which encompasses the central bank’s 12 regional banks, showed manufacturing expanded in most regions since the last report. The report showed modest growth across 11 districts with Dallas showing strong growth.

In other economic news out Wednesday, the Commerce Department said U.S. housing starts fell 9.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 836,000 unit in June, the lowest reading since August 2012. Analysts expected starts to rise to 959,000 units. Bad weather was cited as one of the reasons for the slack reading.

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Meanwhile, Angola, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, forecast its daily output for September will be 1.67 million barrels, well below the 2 million barrels per day target. The country expects to pump 1.7 million barrels a day next month. Angola is Africa’s second-largest oil producer behind fellow OPEC member Nigeria.

This year, Angola has averaged about 1.72 million barrels per day in production, below the daily average of 1.9 million barrels for Nigeria. Angola is banking on new offshore discoveries to boost output in the future.

Elsewhere, Brent futures for September delivery inched down 0.04% to USD108.63 per barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange.

History Shows Gold Could Fall Another $500/oz

16 Jul

A slowdown in growth in China, as evidenced in data released on Monday which showed that growth had slowed to 7.5 percent, was one potential indicator of lower gold demand.

gold updatesThe price of gold could fall below USD 800 an ounce over a long-term horizon, a drop of some USD 500 from its current level of USD 1,294 an ounce, Duke University’s Campbell Harvey told CNBC on Monday.

Harvey, who works at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, said that over 2,500 years of history, the real price of gold (the nominal price adjusted for inflation) had remained roughly the same.

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“Right now we’re way above the mean,” Harvey said, suggesting that the price of gold would correct over the long-term to approximately USD 800 an ounce.

“If you look historically, it doesn’t just go down to the average and stay there. It actually goes through and falls below, then comes back up,” he said.

The price of gold could therefore potentially go even lower than USD 800, he said. “It has been lower in recent history.”

“It might not be tomorrow,” Campbell added, but “the cycles go in 10-15 years, and we’re well into one of these cycles.”

He said investors mulling the price of gold should focus on demand rather than supply, which he said was “amazingly constant”.

A slowdown in growth in China, as evidenced in data released on Monday which showed that growth had slowed to 7.5 percent, was one potential indicator of lower gold demand.

“China is a demander of gold, lower growth there means lower demand,” Campbell said.

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Gold Futures Continue Higher after Strong Week

15 Jul

mcx gold trading

Gold futures built on last week’s new found momentum to traded higher in the early part of Monday’s Asian session as traders continued to nibble at the yellow metal amid still deeply discounted prices.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for August delivery rose 0.86% to USD1,288.55 per troy ounce in Asian trading Monday after settling up 0.3% on Friday to settle the week at USD1,284.15 a troy ounce.

Gold futures were likely to find support at USD1,237.05 a troy ounce, the low from July 8 and resistance at USD1,301.75, the high from June 21. Last week, gold prices rallied 4.9%, the biggest weekly gain since October 2011.

In U.S. economic news published last Friday, a Labor Department report showed U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.8% last month, the biggest gain since September 2012. That follows a 0.5% increase in May. Economists expected a June increase of 0.5%.

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The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment fell to 83.9 in July from 84.1 in June. Economists expected an initial July reading of 84.7.

Gold traders finally got some good news last week when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, in remarks delivered Wednesday, implied a possible tapering of the Fed’s quantitative easing program is not as imminent as previously believed. That sent the U.S. dollar sliding and dollar-denominated commodities such as gold soaring.

Bernanke said last month the central bank could begin tapering its USD85 billion-a-month asset purchase program by the end of 2013 and wind it down completely by the middle of 2014 if the economy picks up as the central bank expects.

Elsewhere, Comex silver for September delivery jumped 0.90% to USD19.970 per ounce while copper for September deliver dropped 0.51% to USD3.138 an ounce.

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Hours before the Minutes, Gold flat

10 Jul

Perpetual gold bulls liken Ben Bernanke, the US Federal Reserve Chairman, to one who delivered the bull market in gold with one hand and grabbed it back with the other; 2011 had seen gold futures rallying all the way to $1900 levels on QE steroids only to dip below the $1200 levels very recently.

Gold updates

Past two days had seen a slight uptrend in gold, marked by buying at lower levels and some short covering. However, hours before US Federal Reserve is about to come out with the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meet, which held in June, the futures are trading flat.

FOMC meeting minutes are scheduled to be released by 11.30 PM IST. This would be followed by a speech of Ben Bernanke sometime around 1.40 AM IST, Thursday.

Gold on the Globex platform of Comex for delivery on August 13 was seen trading at $1,245.05/oz, a loss of $0.85 or 0.07% as of 11.04 AM IST. Gold on India’s MCX for delivery on August 05 was seen trading at Rs.26008, almost flat.

It looks to be a wait-and-watch mode as far as gold investors are concerned.

Perpetual gold bulls liken Ben Bernanke, the US Federal Reserve Chairman, to one who delivered the bull market in gold with one hand and grabbed it back with the other; 2011 had seen gold futures rallying all the way to $1900 levels on QE steroids only to dip below the $1200 levels very recently.

The QE measures or Quantitative Easing measures—bond buying by Federal Reserve—had made gold rally to insane levels, and when June 2013 saw Bernanke announcing tapering of the measures provided the job market recovers, sent gold to a nadir.

It is the FOMC that takes a collective decision on whether or not to continue with the QE measures. It is worthwhile to note that positive job data that came in recently has taken the glitters off the eyes of QE advocates.

“The U.S. dollar is still rallying and Treasury yields are still trying to find a top. It’s still a pretty negative environment for gold.” said Victor Thianpiriya, an analyst at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Singapore to Bloomberg News.

Besides, the rout in the currencies of emerging markets has added to Dollar strength.

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Charts Show Gold Sell-off Could Get A Lot Uglier

5 Jul

If the yellow metal slides below a key support level of USD 1,150, the selloff could accelerate to USD 1,030 or even USD 870 an ounce – levels not seen since 2008 during the global financial crisis, Victor Thianpiriya, commodity strategist, Asia at ANZ wrote.

mcx goldFrom a technical perspective, the outlook for gold  is looking increasingly bearish, according to analysis by Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) , which says the recent sharp declines open the risk of much sharper corrections.

If the yellow metal slides below a key support level of USD 1,150, the selloff could accelerate to USD 1,030 or even USD 870 an ounce – levels not seen since 2008 during the global financial crisis, Victor Thianpiriya, commodity strategist, Asia at ANZ wrote.

“Closing near the lows of the month [June] underscores the risk of much deeper corrective declines… Caution is therefore, key,” Thianpiriya said.

“Volatility remains high. At times like this, the market can ignore fundamentals, and the technical picture takes on greater importance,” he added.

Last week, gold fell to its lowest level since 2010 at USD 1,180, with losses in the precious metal amounting to 22 percent since the start of the aggressive selloff in mid-April.

The yellow metal posted its worst quarterly performance on record, down 23 percent over the April-June period.

Relentless selling by exchange traded funds (ETFs) has been behind the poor performance of the precious metal in the recent months, outweighing physical demand for jewelry, bars and coins.

Thianpiriya noted that a close above USD 1,272 could turn the negative bias in gold around, and allow for a period of rebounds.

However, some strategists believe gold has entered a long term bear market, pointing a tapering of the Federal Reserve`s unprecedented monetary stimulus alongside a benign global inflationary environment as major headwinds for the metal.

Many banks have slashed their forecasts for gold in the recent weeks, the most recent being HSBC, which predicts that the average gold price will be USD 1,396 in 2013, down from USD 1,542.

Among the most bearish, however, is UBS , which warns that gold is at risk of becoming “obsolete” as the Fed winds down its stimulus program . It believes prices could fall to USD 1,150 in the coming 3 months.

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– By CNBC`s Ansuya Harjani
Copyright 2011 cnbc.com

Silver prices rebound on MCX, July futures up 0.3%

27 Jun

Silver prices rebounded with marginal gains Thursday, after previous day’s sharp fall. It fell below Rs 40,000 per kg level in previous session.

At 11:33 hours IST, MCX SILVER July contract was trading at Rs 39681 up Rs 113, or 0.29 percent. The SILVER rate touched an intraday high of Rs 39863 and an intraday low of Rs 39501. So far 5717 contracts have been traded. SILVER prices have moved down Rs 25329, or 38.96 percent in the July series so far.

MCX SILVER September contract was trading at Rs 40042 up Rs 157, or 0.39 percent. The SILVER rate touched an intraday high of Rs 40224 and an intraday low of Rs 39884. So far 1521 contracts have been traded. SILVER prices have moved down Rs 17277, or 30.14 percent in the September series so far.

MCX SILVER December contract was trading at Rs 40939 up Rs 222, or 0.55 percent. The SILVER rate touched an intraday high of Rs 41041 and an intraday low of Rs 40900. So far 10 contracts have been traded. SILVER prices have moved down Rs 6230, or 13.21 percent in the December series so far.

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