Stick a fork in deflation
In my last column I was emphatic about, “selling the rips and buying the dips” because most all markets appeared to be in wide trading ranges. In theory, markets that are in a fixed range, investors and traders should be selling at the top of the range and buying at the bottom. In a range bound market prices tend to rise to the top before falling to the bottom and then reversing once again.
But over the past week, a number of markets have exceeded the top of their range and may move higher yet if things continue to be bullish. For example, the CRB Index that is to the commodity markets as the Dow Jones is to the stock market rose this week to its highest level since July 2015. The CRB has broken above its trading range which is a bullish sign for commodities per se.
Here are a few individual commodity markets that are also breaking above their respective trading range. Crude oil prices rose to a four-year high this week and so did cotton prices. Corn prices hit levels not seen since last August of 2017. Prices for orange juice hit a one year high. Lumber prices have jumped more than 50 percent since January to all-time record high levels. Wheat prices in Kansas City and Minneapolis are at new 10-month highs.
Certainly, other commodities remain defensive such as livestock and a few tropic markets but the weakness with those markets is not offsetting the strength elsewhere. And that is the reason the CRB has been clawing its way higher and breaking above its trading range. The rise with the CRB hints of inflation.
CNBC News recently posted an article quoting Goldman Sachs, “Commodities are posting their best returns in a decade and Goldman thinks there’s more to come. Goldman Sachs warns that investors are getting complacent about commodities and could miss out on rare gains fueled by rising oil prices. The bank forecasts its commodities index will return 8 percent over the next 12 months, up from its previous projection for a 5 percent gain. Goldman says market fears about slowing global growth and rising interest rates are overblown and commodities can shake off those headwinds.”
Needless to say, the Goldman Sachs quotes from above are quite bullish. But the statement that jumped off the page in the article above were the thoughts of Jeff Currie, head of commodity research at Goldman Sachs. CNBC stated that, “Currie compares the current environment to (the year) 2000.”
Are we truly looking at the early stages of rip-roaring bull markets for commodities similar to what unfolded in 2000 and beyond? Are investors about to, “miss out on what lies ahead?”
In my new book, “Haunted By Markets” there is a chapter entitled “Stick A Fork in Deflation” from a column I penned for this newspaper on January 10, 2000. Here is the first paragraph from that chapter.
“The Era of Deflation for commodity values that unfolded three long years ago due to the Asian Crisis has ended. It is a thing of the past. It is history. The coming year and those that follow will give birth to the most bull markets for commodity futures seen in quite a while. Possibly since the 1970s!”
The second paragraph from, “Stick A Fork in Deflation” read as follows, “Certainly, it does not mean I am right. I could be wrong. The coming year and those that follow may be just as bearish and just as ugly as the past three years. Still, my long-term work strongly suggests that few commodity markets will move lower in value from current levels. Then again, only with hindsight will we know for certain whether I am wrong or right about what lies ahead. But I’m betting that bull markets lie ahead.”
In the year 2000 and the years that followed, virtually every commodity market rose sharply in value. It was not until 2007 when the US and global economies slipped into the worst recession since 1929 did commodity values roll over and head south. But with the benefit of hindsight, we now realize that those bullish commodities starting in 2000, did quite well for a number of years buying breaks rather than selling rallies.
When it comes to forecasting big trends, markets and prices, few are better than Jeff Currie and Goldman Sachs. And if they are right about what lies ahead, hang on tight because a bout of inflation is poised to heat up and a new and exciting era lies ahead for ag-producers and speculators.
Yes, once again and similar to 2000, a fork can be stuck in deflation. Inflation has arrived.