Hedge funds entered 2018 a lot more bearish in their betting on ag commodity prices than a year ago.
And, after all, selling proved broadly a winning strategy for investors last year, when the Bcom sector subindex shed 11%.
“The funds were right – the fundamental situation in 2017 simply got more and more bearish as the year wore on,” said Marex Spectron, speaking of sugar, but in comments which could apply to a number of contracts.
Ditto an observation from the London-based trading house that “we have to face the fact that, for the time being at least, the funds – we mean, system funds – dominate the market”.
As Ann Berg noted in a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization briefing in November, trading in agricultural commodities “has been increasingly generated by algorithmic programmes (about 50% according to the CME) which often seek small anomalies across several markets, and increasingly operate without human supervision”.
And not only have funds taken an increasingly bearish view of ags, but amid heavier bets too, with managed money open interest in futures and options in the top 13 US-traded commodities ending 2018 at a little over 7.0m contracts, up 10.1% over the year.
Below, Agrimoney’s Markets Extra lists, the contracts on which hedge funds were the most bullish, and bearish, as of December 26, the latest data available, the change in position in italics week on week, and (in brackets) the change over 2017.
The analysis shows that managed money has turned particularly bearish on raw sugar, soybeans, soyoil and arabica coffee over the past year.
Cotton (New York): 102,402 contracts, +4,727, (+26,350)
Live cattle (Chicago): 82,710, -7,838, (-9,806)
Lean hogs (Chicago): 53,957, +84, (-578)
Soymeal (Chicago): 31,257, -17,212, (+11,720)
Feeder cattle (Chicago): 6,807, -1,939, (+511)
Soyoil (Chicago): 3,406, -5,727, (-82,116)
Cocoa (New York): -25,542, +2,134, (-22,930)
Hard red winter wheat (Kansas City): -34,422, -3,441, (-43,507)
Arabica coffee (New York): -57,846, -945, (-70,552)
Soybeans (Chicago): -69,091, -28,320, (-176,166)
Raw sugar (New York): -73,056, +27,428, (-211,498)
Soft red winter wheat (Chicago): -145,735, +7,842, (-36,808)
Corn (Chicago): -206,524, +15,529, (-92,976)
Overall: -331,777 contracts, -11,946, (-708,356)
Comprising Chicago-traded livestock: 143,474, -9,693, (-9,873)
New York-traded soft commodities: -54,042, -29,076, (-278,630)
Grains (including the soy complex): -421,777, -31,329, (-419,853)