Sunday, January 17, 2016

The 10-Year Forward Graphs have been updated. You can view them at the Ten Year Forward Graphs link on the right side of this page.

There aren't too many surprises. Most commodities have fallen into a general value level, and are not clear buys or shorts. A few of the industrial commodities (some metals, iron ore, uranium) still have further to fall. And there are a limited number that do seem to warrant long positions. I'll talk about a few of the last category in this post.

Crude Oil has finally become officially cheap. It has happened quite quickly, in about a month. Using the current spot prices for Brent and WTI, I expect them to double in the next ten years. But of course you cannot buy the current spot and hold it. Well actually you can, but storage and other costs will more than eat up your gains. If you want to do this trade, it's best to buy the forward futures position. Guess what? The last currently traded future, Dec 2022, is going for $48.79. So if I am right, and the price goes up to $60, you make 23%, or about 2% per year. Not good enough. So no trade there.

Shrimp is expected to go up by about 80%. You can invest in this via non-US aquacultural companies. However I would caution against it. This is one of those commodities where there really has been an "this time is different" event. Over most of the history of my price series, shrimp was a wild-caught product. I remember as a boy what an expensive delicacy a shrimp cocktail was! Now most shrimp is farm-raised, and costs are much lower. Different world. Of course you might get an outbreak of some shrimp disease that comes from the unnaturally close confinement of shrimp in the farms, but I wouldn't want to bet on it.

Wheat and Barley are somewhat undervalued, but they have the same contango structure that oil has. So same non-trade.

Aluminum and Nickel are expected to gain by 60% and 80% respectively. I think nickel is a buy. The best bet is to buy cash metal and pay the storage. If you don't want to open a commodity account there is a somewhat thinly traded ETN, symbol JJN, that will do it.

Both hardwood and softwood are cheap. These can be bought via timber companies or REITs. I would worry that electronic communication has given us a "this time is different" situation in softwood. Paper production has already fallen by a lot, and may have a lot more to go. Also, given the world's demographics, I don't see homebuilding going back to pre-recession levels. Hardwood may be a buy, since many old growth forests in S. America and tropical Asia are being cleared. I cannot think of a clean way to play this. If any of you can, let me know.

Cotton is both cheap and has a flat futures curve going out three years. The problem here is that if the supply/demand balance tightens, the years after 2018 may go into the same kind of contango that Wheat or crude has. That would eat up profits. Nonetheless, this is an interesting situation, and I will look into it further.

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