Sunday, July 28, 2013

How sustainable is the commodity rebound?

I have seen some buzz and excitement among technical analysts and in the blogosphere about a rebound in the commodity sectors of the stock market. While these sectors were highly oversold and a bounce was not unexpected, my analysis suggest that the sustainability of a rebound is unlikely. The more likely scenario is a sideways consolidation to digest the gains from the tactical rally.

Here is the chart of the metal stocks relative to the market. The group has rallied out of a relative downtrend, which is constructive, but faces some overhead relative resistance. My best guess is a period of sideways consolidation going forward:

Here are the gold stocks against the market. I'm not sure why people are getting so excited here. Sure, the short-term relative downtrend has been broken, but the longer term relative downtrend remains intact.

Here is the relative chart of the energy sector. It bears some semblance to the metals - rally out of a relative downtrend and exhibiting a consolidation pattern.

Longer term, I just get very excited about this sector unless it can show some sustained relative strength to break the pattern of lower relative lows and lower relative highs:

Here is the long term relative chart of Materials. The same comments that I made about energy applies to this sector as well:

The same thing goes for the metals. Well, you get the idea.

Tactically, I also like to watch the high-beta small cap resource stocks relative to their large cap brethren to measure the "animal spirits" of the market to give me clues as to the sustainability of this rebound. Here are the junior golds (GDXJ) relative to the senior olgds (GDX). Unless the juniors can show more strength to break the relative downtrend, it suggests to me that this rally is likely to be brief and fleeting.

Up here in the Great White North, I monitor the relative return of the junior TSX Venture, which is weighted towards the speculative junior resource names, to the more senior and more broadly diversified TSX Index.

Nope. No rebound in animal spirits here either.

The dreams of gold bugs
I also saw some analysis that is supportive of a strong gold rally, but upon further analysis I believe that the analysis could be interpreted in different ways and it is not necessarily supportive of a bullish position in gold. Consider this chart showing the relative performance of the Amex Gold Bugs Index against SPX, which has been rattling around in the blogosphere:

It was pointed out that we are experiencing bullish divergences on the 14-week RSI and in the past three occasions, the HUI/SPX ratio has rallied strongly in favor of HUI. Moreover, the ratio is sitting at a major relative support level and, given the highly oversold conditions and the bullish RSI divergences, conditions are highly suggestive of a strong rally for the golds.

While I would not rule out a tactical rally in gold and gold stocks, I question the sustainability of any bullish thrust. I would point out that the highlighted bullish RSI divergences occurred in a secular bull market for gold and other commodities. It is questionable whether gold remains in a secular bull today. Consider the occasions on the left had side of the chart, where oversold RSI conditions occurred in the HUI/SPX ratio in a bear market. On those occasions, the rebound was only a blip and the downtrend continued soon afterwards.

The key issue to the analysis that underlies the above chart is the question of whether gold is in a bull or bear market. Choose your interpretation and your own conclusion.

As well, there is the Commitment of Traders report showing an off-the-scale reading in the net gold positions of commercials, or hedgers:

The COT report seems highly supportive of a bullish impulse in gold, but consider what happened in 2008 when we saw a similar reading. The COT "buy" signal report date was September 16, 2008. Soon after, the gold price proceeded to tank, though it did recover for several months,

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Fundamental backdrop is not constructive
It's not just technical headwinds that the commodity sectors face, the macro fundamental backdrop does not scream sustainable rebound for these late cycle sectors. Walter Kurtz of Sober Look highlighted this chart from Credit Suisse showing the relative performance of cyclical vs. defensive sectors by region. The US and eurozone ratios are fairly flat, while Japan shows a minor uptick and China, which is the major marginal buyer of commodities, is going south.

Can the commodity sectors rebound strongly in the absence of Chinese demand and a so-so performance from the major developed markets?

The signals from China are clear. The new leadership is intent on re-balancing the  economic growth from an export and infrastructure driven model to a consumer drive model. While the government appeared to have blinked last week when Premier Li Keqiang asserted that growth would not be allowed to go below 7%, it seems that any stimulus measures would be highly targeted and localized. In fact, Bloomberg reported that the government ordered 1400 companies to cut capacity in a highly targeted move to shift the focus away from infrastructure spending:
China ordered more than 1,400 companies in 19 industries to cut excess production capacity this year, part of efforts to shift toward slower, more-sustainable economic growth.

Steel, ferroalloys, electrolytic aluminum, copper smelting, cement and paper are among areas affected, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement yesterday, in which it announced the first-batch target of this year to cut overcapacity. Excess capacity must be idled by September and eliminated by year-end, the ministry said, identifying the production lines to be shut within factories.

China’s extra production has helped drive down industrial-goods prices and put companies’ profits at risk, while a survey this week showed manufacturing weakening further in July. Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to curb overcapacity as part of efforts to restructure the economy as growth this year is poised for the weakest pace since 1990.
Does this sound like a government that is panicked about growth falling below 7% and is anxious to stimulate at all costs? Do these measures sound like they are supportive of a short-term spike in commodity demand?

In short, the rebound in gold and other commodity prices appear to be temporary and the bear trend will likely re-assert itself after a short rebound. This does not look like the start of an intermediate term uptrend.

For commodity bulls, the current environment is like the unfortunate case of being locked up by the secret police and having your interrogator go home for the evening. You may think that the torture is over, but the beatings will continue when he returns in the morning.

Cam Hui is a portfolio manager at Qwest Investment Fund Management Ltd. ("Qwest"). This article is prepared by Mr. Hui as an outside business activity. As such, Qwest does not review or approve materials presented herein. The opinions and any recommendations expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or recommendations of Qwest.

None of the information or opinions expressed in this blog constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or other instrument. Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice and any recommendations that may be contained herein have not been based upon a consideration of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific recipient. Any purchase or sale activity in any securities or other instrument should be based upon your own analysis and conclusions. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Either Qwest or Mr. Hui may hold or control long or short positions in the securities or instruments mentioned.


Unknown said...

please is there any way to sign to articles by email ? or google ?? i want to get note whan you add new article tnk u roni

Unknown said...

how v\can i sign here to get new articles ?

Cam Hui, CFA said...

There is a link at the right side of the blog called "Subscribe to Humble Student of the Markets by Email"

Try this, if it doesn't work find the link on the side:

Unknown said...

tnk u mr. hui
i signed up and glad to be a member of this blog ! tnks again roni

Unknown said...

thank you !! roni

Rahul Solanki said...

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