Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Commodities Plunge on Concerns of Demand, Fed Comments, and Hedge Fund Rumors

Several elements on Wednesday fueled a plunge in prices of many commodities, as the perfect storm of information resulted in big sell offs.

Among the major concerns was the release of the minutes from the latest meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which hinted at the possibility of it slowing down its latest QE or stimulus program before the hiring numbers it was targeting are even close to being met.

It sounds like a deliberate attempt by the Fed to influence the market, as the chances of it stopping its stimulus any time soon is very unlikely at best. Hiring really hasn't moved at all since the introduction of the latest round of QE, so the idea the central bank is going to just slow down or close up shop is pretty ludicrous.

Nonetheless, a somewhat spooked market over responded by punishing commodities across the board. Gold and silver were hit particularly hard by the news, with gold settling down 2.6 percent and silver 2.7 percent. That brought gold to 7-month lows, while silver experienced its sharpest decline in 2 months.

The other ambiguous news was a rumor a commodity hedge fund had to liquidate positions in oil and metals, putting more downward pressure on commodities. As of this writing there is no proof this has even happened. Most of the sell-off in commodities happened between 10 am and 11 am, the time the rumor of the hedge fund sell off was at its peak.

Some analysts look at it all as speculative trading more than anything else. The fact that the majority of the commodities fell on average about 2 percent points to a blip more than a rush out of the sector.

Finally, what has some potential legs one way or the other for commodities is the demand factor, in that regard there continues to be mixed data and outlook concerning the growth rate of the U.S. and global economy, causing ongoing uncertainty in the commodity markets

There is no doubt though that this was a news-related downward push on commodity prices, and shouldn't continue on until there is more clarity over the issues, which outside of the rumored hedge fund, will take time to reveal itself.

Commodity demand and the presumptions the Fed may end easing sometime soon, are things that won't be known for some time, with the ending of stimulus assuredly not going to happen any time soon. Once that's realized, things will level off again until commodity demand is better understood.

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