"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

World News Special Edition: Oil and Gold and Silver

By special request, let's have a look at what's going on with commodities.  And what is going on with commodities, you ask?  Well, according to Bloomberg, Brent Crude Futures dropped 9.4%, WTI Crude Futures dropped 9.39%, the gold 100 oz futures dropped 2.86%, and the silver futures dropped 11.61%.
Just about every other commodity was down as well.  Canola, cocoa, corn, rice, copper, cattle, you name it.  The only one that didn't drop was lean hogs, which was up 0.38%.[1]
If actual metal prices are more your thing, Kitco is showing gold down 3.02% and silver down 12.92% (as of 15:11 Eastern)
So, what happened?  We'll turn to Reuters first for some ideas.  In Oil plummets 8 percent as commodities battered, the article quotes Chris Jarvis, senior analyst for Caprock Risk Management, for some theories.  "Crude oil is selling off sharply for two primary reasons:  QE2 is coming to an end in June and without a QE3 behind it, it will take liquidity out of the market, hurting risky asset classes such as commodities....  With Osama bin Laden dead, the market is adjusting the geopolitical risk premium down accordingly.  Given this, speculative money is being taken off the table."
Silver took a beating  because the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group is raising margin requirements for the 5000-ounce COMEX silver futures, according to Silver deepens dive to 5-week low, gold slips.  The margin requirement was $11,745 per contract.  Starting May 9, it will go to $21,600 per contract.
If you don't follow commodities much (and I don't), that's comparable to taking the house requirement for a stock from 30% to 55%.
Michael Shaoul, chairman of Marketfield Asset management, chalks it up to panic in Commodities Sink Most Since 2009 as Stocks Fall.  "You have those super crowded trades.  Now you're in liquidation mode.  There's nothing to do with weak US economic data.  It's not a global financial crisis.  It's  a classic liquidation move in a crowded trade."
One final piece of the puzzle:  the dollar was up against the euro, the British pound, the yen, and the Australian dollar.  Since commodities are traded in dollars, a strengthening dollar will help push commodity prices down.
This probably isn't an exhaustive list, of course.  But it's some data to work with.
[1]  Now I'm kind of hoping to be reading about a "pork bubble" in a few months.

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