Gold, platinum and Brent oil will lead gains in commodities as investors seek to protect their assets and shortages emerge, according to Tony Hall, the hedge-fund manager who earned 33 percent for his clients this year.
Gold may climb 21 percent to a record $2,200 an ounce by the end of 2011, platinum may gain 10 percent and Brent could rise 25 percent to $140 a barrel in six months, said the London-based chief investment officer of Duet Commodities Fund Ltd., which manages more than $100 million of assets. Its eight-month gain compares with a mean return of 0.6 percent across commodity hedge funds tracked by HedgeFund.net and beat larger rivals such as Clive Capital LLP and Fortress Commodities Offshore Fund Ltd.
“The fear of recession, the fear of worse economic numbers is weighing on commodities and stopping gains from fundamentals from coming through,” said Hall, 31, who spars as a heavyweight boxer. “We still believe in the gold story. If you believe the world is in trouble or in further economic growth disruption, then gold is a good safe haven. If you believe that the world is going to come out okay, then it’s a good inflation hedge.”
At a time when the MSCI All-Country World Index of global equities declined 10 percent this year, the Standard & Poor’s GSCI measure of 24 commodities advanced 2.7 percent, led by silver, gold and energy.
Investors held about $431 billion in raw materials by July, an almost fivefold gain in six years, Barclays Capital says. As equity holders contend with losses of $8.5 trillion since May, speculators made their biggest wagers on higher commodity prices in almost three months in the week to Sept. 6 as they anticipated that even weaker economic growth will mean shortages.
Gold advanced 28 percent to $1,819.88 this year, heading for an 11th consecutive annual gain, the longest winning streak in at least nine decades. It’s the second-best performer in the S&P GSCI behind silver, which rose 31 percent. Gold is trading at 45 times the price of silver, down from a multiple of 84 in 2008. Silver, the precious metal most used in industry, rose more than threefold to $40.4338 since the end of that year.
The gold price of $2,200 predicted by Hall would be 15 percent more than the all-time high of $1,921.15 reached Sept. 6. It would still be below the then-record $850 reached in 1980, equal to $2,337 now in inflation-adjusted terms. Bullion had tumbled 5.7 percent from its all-time high by Sept. 16.
Central banks are expanding their gold reserves for the first time in a generation. Euro-area nations added 0.8 metric ton to their holdings this year, the first increase since 2001, International Monetary Fund data show. Central banks and government institutions worldwide bought 192.3 tons in the first half, according to the World Gold Council.
“I’d say gold will have a very good run higher, and a very good retracement would be justified,” Hall said. “If we see a retracement back to $1,700, I think at that point would be a good opportunity to get in.”
Gold and platinum-group metals, used mostly in jewelry and catalytic converters for cars, were the best performers for Duet in the past two months, said Hall, who has traded commodities for about a decade. The fund also profited from betting against silver in May and June, he said. Silver futures traded on the Comex exchange in New York fell from $49.845 an ounce on April 25 to as low as $32.30 on May 12.
That trading idea came from Arno Pilz, 42, who founded the fund with Hall in July 2010. The former head of metals trading at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. oversees the fund’s investments in precious and industrial metals while Hall runs the energy trades. They plan to add an agricultural specialist in second-half 2012 at the earliest and cap total assets at $1 billion.
Pilz, who has traded metals since 1999, has a Master of Philosophy degree in management studies from Oxford University’s Templeton College. He makes his own cider and salami and is building a 1:2 scale Land Rover for his two daughters.
Hall and Pilz beat larger rivals including Clive Capital, which oversees $4.8 billion and fell 11 percent this year, and the $1.1 billion Fortress Commodities Offshore Fund, which returned about 1.8 percent, according to people with direct knowledge of the funds’ performance.
Duet’s best trade was on Brent crude in the second quarter, Hall said. The contract, traded on ICE Futures Europe in London, gained as much as 34 percent this year as fighting erupted in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves. The disruption to supplies of light crudes, which yield a higher proportion of more profitable products including gasoline, increased demand for similar grades such as Brent.
Brent costs about $24.59 a barrel more than the West Texas Intermediate grade traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a global benchmark, up from about parity in 2009. The premium dropped from $25.93 on Sept. 6 after a 600,000-barrel cargo of Libyan crude was offered for shipment, a sign exports may resume, said three people with direct knowledge of the transaction.
Brent slumped 12 percent to $111.81 a barrel since early April because of concern that slower economic growth will curb demand for energy. The Paris-based International Energy Agency cut global oil demand forecasts for this year by 200,000 barrels a day and 400,000 a day for 2012 on Sept. 13, and said stockpiles in developed nations fell to below the five-year average for the first time since the global recession in 2008.
“Eventually the crude fundamentals will come through and become the dominant factor,” said Hall, who holds an economics degree from University of Bath. “We are going to see new highs in Brent over the next six months.”
More than half Duet’s commodity book is expressed through options, with crude and precious metals positions concentrated in periods three to six months ahead, said Hall, who previously worked for Credit Suisse Group AG and Deutsche Bank AG.
Fuel was also the fund’s worst trade, on a view concerning price differentials of gasoil and other products.
“Energy relative value has been the most disappointing part of the portfolio this year, with our view that middle distillates would outperform other products,” he said.
The so-called cracks, reflecting the spread between the price of the refined product and crude, slumped 29 percent since peaking at $24.17 a barrel on March 16, according to data from PVM Oil Associates, a London-based brokerage. Gasoil is typically used as a heating fuel.
Speculators held 1.275 million net-long futures and options across 18 commodities tracked by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the week ended Sept. 6, the most since the week ended June 14, data compiled by Bloomberg show. They had raised that combined position for four consecutive weeks. They cut their bullish bets by 5.2 percent in the latest week.
Duet is also bullish on platinum, which gained 2.3 percent to $1,810.38 an ounce this year. The metal, mined mostly in South Africa, will trade as high as $2,000 to $2,200 this year, Hall said. Holdings in exchange-traded products backed by the commodity are at a near-record 44.3 tons, valued at about $2.6 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Platinum is trading at a ratio of 2.5 times the price of palladium, compared with a 10-year average of 3.5. The metals are mined together and both are used in autocatalysts.
Platinum supply will fall 21,000 ounces short of demand this year, widening to a deficit of 54,000 ounces in 2012, Barclays Capital estimates. Mining companies are going as deep as 1.4 miles underground to maintain output, pumping chilled air down mine shafts to cool seams as hot as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Platinum looks like great value in the precious metals complex,” Hall said. “Platinum is a store of value, a precious metal and an industrial metal. If the economy picks up we’re going to see bigger demand in catalytic converters.”