Economy Avoiding ‘Death Spiral’ Increases Bullish Fund Wagers: Commodities

Hedge funds boosted wagers on higher commodity prices for the first time in three weeks as the outlook for the U.S. economy improved.

Money managers increased combined bullish positions across 18 U.S. futures and options by 0.7 percent to 566,494 contracts in the week ended Nov. 29, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Investors trimmed their bearish holdings in copper for the first time in four weeks, and pared bets on lower wheat and soybean prices.

The value of world equities rose more than $2.2 trillion last week as the MSCI All-Country World Index climbed for five consecutive days, the longest rally since October. The Federal Reserve and five other central banks made it easier and cheaper for banks to obtain dollars in emergencies and China, the biggest consumer of everything from energy to copper to soybeans, lowered banks’ reserve requirements for the first time since 2008. The U.S. jobless rate fell to a two-year low in November.

“We’re more on a moderate growth path, not the death spiral people feared two months ago,” said Michael Strauss, who helps oversee about $27 billion of assets as the chief investment strategist at Commonfund in Wilton, Connecticut. “That puts a little bit more support into commodities.”

Copper Rallies

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Commodity Index jumped 3.5 percent last week, the most since mid-October, led by copper, zinc and aluminum. The MSCI All-Country World Index gained 8.4 percent while the Dollar Index, a measure against six trading partners, slipped 1.3 percent. The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose 7 basis points, or 0.07 percentage point, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

Twenty-one of the 24 commodities tracked by the GSCI rose last week, while coffee, hogs and cocoa declined. Copper rose 9.2 percent, the most in five weeks, and wheat gained 6.2 percent in the biggest advance since mid-July.

Commodities will return 15 percent in the next 12 months, led by industrial metals and energy, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report Dec. 1. The S&P GSCI rebounded 15 percent since mounting concern about the European debt crisis drove the index on Oct. 4 to the lowest since November 2010.

U.S. consumer confidence surged in November by the most in eight years, the Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, reported Nov. 29. Manufacturing expanded at the fastest speed in five months, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index on Dec. 1.

80 Commodities

Four of the six largest automakers in the U.S. beat analysts’ expectations in November, boosting industry sales to the fastest pace since August 2009, Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey- based Autodata Corp. reported Dec. 1. Palladium, used mostly in catalytic converters, surged 13 percent last week, the most of any of the 80 commodities tracked by Bloomberg.

The GSCI gauge climbed 1.6 percent last month for a second consecutive gain. While the index is 14 percent lower than the 32-month high reached in April, it’s still up 4.1 percent for the year. When economies tumbled into recession in 2008, the gauge fell as much as 66 percent.

The commodity measure slipped 0.1 percent to settle today at 657.52, after earlier climbing as much as 1.2 percent.

China’s growth may slow to 8.5 percent next year, compared with 9.3 percent in 2011, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris said in a report Nov. 28. Chinese manufacturing slowed last month to the weakest since February 2009, according to an index from the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.

‘Slow-Growth Mode’

In the 17-nation euro region, a manufacturing gauge based on a survey of purchasing managers fell to the lowest since July 2009, London-based Markit Economics said Dec. 1. Europe accounts for 19 percent of global copper demand and consumes about one in six barrels of the world’s oil, according to Barclays Capital and the International Energy Agency.

“We think Europe is in the process of entering a recession,” said John Bailey, the founder and chief executive officer of Stamford, Connecticut-based Spruce Private Investors LLC, which manages about $3 billion of assets. “Even if the U.S. stabilizes into a slow-growth mode, there are other challenges you’re starting to see. The numbers coming out of China have been weaker than expected.”

Funds pulled $122 million out of commodities in the week ended Nov. 30, even as gold and precious-metal investments had a net-inflow of $446 million, said Cameron Brandt, the director of research at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based EPFR Global, which tracks investment flows.

Crude Net-Longs

“There was definitely some enthusiasm in the past few days, with China switching its reserve policy and more good U.S. data,” Brandt said by phone. “Inflows next week may be driven by non-gold funds.”

Net-long positions in crude oil rose 2.6 percent from a week earlier to 194,695 contracts, according to CFTC data. Futures climbed 4.3 percent to $100.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange last week, the most since mid-November. The most widely held option gives holders the right to buy oil at $150 by November, exchange data show.

Speculators trimmed bets on lower copper prices to 7,017 contracts, from 7,731 a week earlier, the CFTC data show. Twelve of 24 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the metal to advance this week and two were neutral, the first majority bullish outlook in six weeks. Stockpiles monitored by exchanges in London, New York and Shanghai fell 23 percent since March.

Supply ‘Struggle’

Copper will average a record $4.14 a pound in 2012, as economic concerns dissipate amid the “struggle simply to maintain, never mind increase, copper-mine output,” analysts at Macquarie Capital (Europe) Ltd. led by London-based Jeff Largey said in a report Dec. 1. Prices averaged $4.06 this year on the Comex exchange in New York.

A measure of 11 U.S. farm goods showed speculators increased bullish bets in agricultural commodities by 2.4 percent to 267,643 contracts, the first gain in three weeks.

“We have seen a nice rally in the past couple of weeks as investors rush back to risk assets,” said Peter Buchanan, a senior economist and commodity analyst at CIBC World Markets Inc. in Toronto. “What we’ve really seen is the risk-on, risk- off trade.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Whitney McFerron in Chicago at wmcferron1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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