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Commodities at a turning point?

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Research by ETF Securities

ETF SecuritiesMost commodity prices bounced back last week, attracting flows into a diverse range of commodity ETCs from gold to agricultural baskets. Gold ETPs saw their first inflows in a month as dovish Federal Open Market Committee minutes led to dollar weakness, while weak German data renewed interest in the hard defensive assets. With the exception of cocoa, all agricultural prices rose last week. Agricultural baskets saw their largest inflows in 20 months, bringing the year-to-date flows into agricultural baskets into positive territory for the first time since April 2014.

ETF commodity flowsGold ETPs saw first inflow in five weeks. Gold ETPs received US$18.3mn of inflows last week as the price of gold rose 1.2% in US dollar terms, amid US currency weakness following the dovish Federal Reserve meeting minutes release. With gold prices having fallen close to the marginal cost of production and speculative futures market shorts positions having risen close to all-time highs, last week’s bounce could trigger a short-covering rally helping to sustain momentum in the upward trend. Additionally weak data from Germany unscored the fragile state of the Euro area, bolstering the case for further easing from the European Central Bank, which may strengthen demand for gold as a monetary metal. At the same time physical demand for the gold is likely to see a seasonal lift from the upcoming Diwali celebrations in India (23rd October).

Agricultural basket ETPs saw their largest inflows since January 2013. In particular, with US$22.7mn of inflows, ETFS Agriculture (AIGA) saw its largest inflow since inception (2006). That marks a decisive change in sentiment toward agricultural commodities, where speculative futures market shorts for wheat, corn, soy and sugar have risen to near-record highs amid bumper crop expectations. Corn prices rose 6.8% last week as US exports for the crop picked up strongly. Wheat ETPs saw their first outflow in 21 weeks. Investors had been steadily building positions in wheat as the price slid to the lowest level since 2010. Last week’s 2.2% bounce in price led to some profit-taking.

ETFS Daily Leveraged Natural Gas received US$10.0mn of inflows, the highest since February 2014. While most commodity prices rose last week, energy prices bucked the trend. With US natural gas prices falling a further 3.8% last week, investors bought leveraged exposure, expecting a seasonal increase in demand to shake out the bearish sentiment toward the commodity.

Price gains in industrial metals attracted flows into copper, while driving profittaking elsewhere. With the exception of tin, all industrial metal prices rose last week. ETFS Copper (COPA) received its first inflow in six weeks. Meanwhile profit taking saw US$11.1mn of outflows from ETFS Aluminium (ALUM), adding to the US$59.9mn of outflows the previous week, reversing all of the strong inflows we saw in July and August. ETFS Zinc (ZINC) saw US$2.9mn of outflows, the largest in eight weeks.

Key events to watch this week. A raft of Chinese economic data releases will help investors gauge the strength of the economy that drives the bulk of commodity demand globally. Chinese trade, loan growth, money supply growth, inflation and FX reserves growth data are due to be released next week. US retail sales will be closely watched as the Fed assesses the capacity of the US economy to accommodate rate increases next year.

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