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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.

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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