October 11, 2017
The paper gold attack that I first suggested might occur in the September 7th issue has taken gold from $1360 down to $1270 (continuous contract basis). Technically, gold has moved from an “overbought” condition to a mildly “oversold” condition. The RSI and MACD indicate that gold is slightly “oversold” but I believe both indicators will flash “extremely oversold” before this price attack over. This should occur sometime in the next 2-3 weeks.
I say this because I continue to believe the open interest in Comex paper gold, combined with the analyzing the weekly Commitment of Traders report, is the best indicator of gold’s next move, at least until the western Central Banks are unable to control the price of gold with paper derivatives. To be sure, the COT report is not always a perfect predictor but in the last 15 years the two reports combined have been around 90% accurate.
Currently, the Comex banks’ net short position in paper gold is at the high end of its historical range. Concomitantly, the net long position of the hedge funds is also at the high end of its historical range. Per last Friday’s COT report, the banks began to reduce the short positions, thereby reducing their net short position, and the hedge funds began to reduce the long positions, thereby reducing their net short position (click to enlarge):
The graphic above is from the CFTC’s weekly COT report for all commodities. I’ve referenced the COT report quite a bit so I thought I’d put some “meat” on the bones. The report was published Friday (Sept 29th) but the cut-off day for the data used is the Tuesday before last Friday (Sept 26th). Unfortunately, by the time we, the public, can see the data it’s three days old. By the time we can try to trade on it (the following Monday) it’s four days old. This is unfortunate and the CFTC could force a daily disclosure of the data, which would be ideal, but since when does the Government do anything for the benefit of the public? Having said that, we can still get a feel for then general “flow” of positioning in gold futures by the various trading cohorts. Note: though the CFTC publishes the COT report, the actual data comes from the banks who operate and manage the Comex trading floor and computer systems.
I’ve highlighted the data that is important to me. The reportable positions are the “producer/hedgers,” “swap dealers,” “managed money,” “other reportables” and “non-reportable.” The latter two are large money pools that are not hedge funds or mutual funds and retail traders, respectively. They are not a factor in the analysis except to the extent that it is thought, though unprovable, that the banks throw some of their positions into the “other reportables” category to hide them.
The bank positions are primarily in the “swap dealer” account but they also throw their trades into the producer/hedge category. It’s impossible to know how much without having access to the systems. The “managed money” is primarily hedge funds. On the left side is the open interest (o/i) number. You can see at the bottom the o/i declined by 20.4k contracts from the previous Tuesday. It had peaked a couple weeks earlier around the 580k level, if memory serves me correctly. [As of Tues, Oct 10th, the o/i was 520k]
The bottom row data shows the change in the various positions from the previous week’s report. You can see that the swap dealers covered 14.5k worth of shorts and added 4.9k of longs. The producer/hedgers were net unchanged in terms of net position but still extremely net short. The hedge funds (managed money) sold over 32k of long positions and added 4.8k to their short position, effectively dropping their net long position by 36.8k contracts.
Note: The spread positions (“spreading”) are not important to this analysis. They represent a trade in which one side of the trade might be short October gold contracts and offsets it with a long position in December gold, for instance. This would be a “hedged” bullish trade because the entity with that position is expecting the price of gold to rise by December but wants to hedge out risk factors that might take the price of gold lower between now and then. There’s no way to know how the spread trades are positioned without access to the Comex systems.
You’ll note, based on the change in relative positions, it appears as if the banks have started to cover their shorts and add to longs, thereby decreasing their net short position. Similarly, the hedge funds did the opposite, thereby reducing their net long position from the previous week. The open interest as of this past Wednesday (published daily) was 522k contracts. This is 27k contracts lower than the o/i when the report was put together a week ago Tuesday. The o/i appears to be trending lower, which historically has indicated that the banks are collapsing their net short position and the hedge funds are collapsing their net long. We’ll know if this trend continued on Friday afternoon, when the next COT report is released.
If this trend continues, it indicates that we’re getting closer to a bottom and the next move higher. I’d like to see the open interest on the Comex decline by about another 100k contracts. This might take 3 or 4 weeks. We could also see some short-lived spikes down in price before this over. Typically what has been occurring over the last 3 years or so is that, as the hedge funds dump longs and add to shorts, the hedge fund computer algos overreact to the downside price momentum and begin to “flatten out” the hedge fund net position by rapidly unloading longs and piling into the short side. A couple times over the past few years the hedge funds have been net short for a week or two. This always has preceded a big rally in gold.
I don’t know if it will play out like that this time around. Currently the mining shares are “grudgingly” giving up ground. Often, though not always, that trading behavior in the shares indicates that a bottom is forming. Again, I don’t know if that will be the case and I’m braced for one more nerve-wracking move down to the $1250-$1260 area. We still have a hedge in our stock portfolio via owning in-the-money calls on JDST. We’ll probably remove that hedge sometime in the next week or two.
Although we might be in a for a bumpy ride over the next couple of weeks (then again, we might not be), the mining stocks, expecially the juniors, are setting up for big move after gold (and silver) bottoms out and heads higher.
The graph above (click to enlarge) is a 1-yr daily of GDX. From its bottom in December through Thursday’s close, GDX is up 21%. You can see in the chart the slope of the trendline I drew steepened slightly in mid-July. I still think we could see a short-term drop in GDX below the 200 dma (red line) but I would use this as an opportunity to add to positions.
The one factor that could derail the ability of the banks to engineer more downside to the gold price is China’s return to the market starting Sunday night. China has been closed down this past week in observance of a national holiday, which means their presence as a large buyer of physical gold has been absent. Quite frankly, I expected a bigger take-down of the gold price in China’s absence. The inability to do this may have been offset by India’s continued demand for gold, both through official avenues of import and smuggling. The gold flowing duty-free into India from South Korea has been curtailed but Indonesia, which is party to the same free trade agreement, has stepped in to fill the void. Just this past week, import premiums were high enough to indicate that legal importation of kilo bars also resumed.
One last note, some of you may have seen the report that Russia’s Central Bank has become the world’s largest official buyer of gold (“official” meaning Central Bank/sovereign). I would argue that China does not fully disclose the extent to which the PBoC is accumulating gold (for instance, it’s thought that the PBoC buys most if not all of the 400+ tonnes of gold produced by China’s mines. That said, both the Russian and Chinese Central Banks combined are accumulating an enormous quantity of gold. I would suggest they are doing this a precursor to re-introducing gold into the global monetary system. In other words, follow the money.
The above commentary is from the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal.