"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Crude Oil - Speculative Frenzy Kicking Off

In going over some of the various COT reports and having a look-see to observe who is doing what, I wanted to make a few comments about the crude oil market, especially in light of one of our astute posters here who pointed out the very large imbalance currently existing in that market ( thanks Jesse L.!).

Take a gander at the following COT chart and you will see exactly what he was referring to. This chart goes back Eight Years - to the time that the CFTC began breaking out the Disaggregated Report.

If you notice, all three categories of speculators, the Hedge Funds, the Large Reportables and the Small Specs or General Public, are on the same side of the crude oil market, namely the long side.

There is nothing wrong with that since the trend has been a steady grind upwards, which until recently was stalled near the $105 level.

However, the sheer size of the hedge fund positioning is what is so striking. It is enormous and is at the largest level that has been seen, far eclipsing that which existed when crude was near $150 back in the summer of 2008 ( just before the credit crisis erupted) and when crude was responding to rounds 1 and 2 of QE in April 2011.

Another interesting thing to note - while the big commercial category is not at a record net short length, they are not far from one. The difference in the short positioning in this market at the current time, compared to when the commercials held their record net short position during August 2013, is that back then, the SWAP DEALERS were actually on the net long side of the market as well. Now those Swap Dealers are net short as well. As a matter of fact, the only category of traders that was net short the crude oil market back then, was those commercials - everyone else, including the swap dealers,  was net long.

Crude Oil was just shy of $112/barrel at that time. It then promptly proceeded to collapse some $20 barrel in the matter of three month's time all the way to $92. It has since refused to go back down below that level and is now knocking on the door of $108, a mere $4 off the peak made last August.

How all of this plays out in the coming weeks is going to be very interesting to say the least. I think it important to reiterate that spec positioning in a market can go to extreme lengths and continue to increase long after many believe that a reversal is imminent. After all, who is to say just how many speculators can crowd into a market before it gets too lopsided? Answer - no one.

I well remember taking some of the usual pundits in the gold community to task publicly back when gold was running in a strong bull market some years ago. These self-anointed COT expects were consistently regaling us with "gold is going to have a sharp selloff" nearly every week when the COT data came out merely because they somehow arrived at the conclusion that there were "too many specs" on the long side of the market.

My rebuttal to that simplistic and inept analysis at the time was "who appointed these people to determine how many speculators can come into a market and where did they obtain this special key of knowledge that no one else seemed to have"?
Here was the simple truth back then which remains the simple truth at the present  - We simply have no way of knowing how far their buying can drive prices and to what levels they can take it. As long as they are willing to commit money into a market, it is going to move higher. When you consider the amount of money that has been created by the Fed since the inception of its QE programs, and the ZIRP of the Fed, there is a huge amount of HOT MONEY out there that can invade any market and catapult it higher once the commitment is made to invest in that particular market.

Just look at the stock market for Pete's sake if you have any doubts about what speculative buying can do!

So what are we to think about this crude oil situation as traders? Answer - first -what is the direction of the market? Answer - it is trending higher with a series of higher lows since June 2012. The move up has been stymied at times at key resistance levels ( which we noted was one such occurrence at the $112 level) but the market has steadily ground higher. The $105 level had recently served to cap its upward progress for the last three months but that finally gave way when the situation in Iraq hit the radar screens of traders.

What this tells us is that sentiment towards crude oil remains strongly bullish and the trend is currently higher. Don't try to be a hero therefore and fight the tape just because the positioning of the specs vs the commercials is so lopsided in this market. Guess what? It can become even more so!

Secondly - do watch however and be alert for any signs of market reversals. When you have this many speculators crowded on any one side of the market, it does make for an inherently unstable market, one in which longs can become very jumpy and nervous for fear of sharp moves lower. This can and often is reflected in big spikes followed by sharp selloffs followed by big spikes up again. In other words, rising volatility can indicate increasing nervousness.

I have remarked about this in the past but want to do so again - markets, especially the "futures" markets ( not the "past" markets or even the "present" markets) tend to look ahead and price in the worst ( or the best ) news and price that in accordingly. We traders refer to the event or scenario as the price "having baked into the cake" the news.

In the case of crude, it has already baked into the cake quite a bit of bad news. With ISIS moving down through Iraq and threatening to seize key oil producing regions, the crude oil markets were rightfully concerned. Then we had the Ukraine situation which seems to flare up, recede and is currently flaring again. Once again, crude oil, which is always sensitive to geopolitical events, has priced in some risk premium.

So here is the big question that I am currently grappling with as a trader - just how much higher can these geopolitical concerns take this market at this point? I ask myself that question because of my current view of the US economy - let's face it, given the very tenuous nature of growth taking place at the moment, can this economy cope with sharply higher energy costs without seeing the "energy tax" impact begin to curtail growth? in other words, at what point do energy prices begin to significantly negatively impact growth?

We are all well aware of the high cost of meat right now for consumers. Until recently, gasoline prices, had been a bit more well behaved even if they had somewhat risen. Now they are threatening to move strongly higher also. You then get the ONE-TWO sucker punch to the struggling consumer which has to negatively impact economic growth as disposable income goes more and more to the basic needs.

At some point, demand for energy will then be affected, just like it always is during times of very high prices. When that point comes, and none of us know in advance when it will take place, crude oil is going to experience a significant round of long liquidation as longs begin to book profits and head to out of the market.

I would also be watchful for signs of the various Fed governors heading to the microphones and begin to try talking down some of the commodity sectors if things get too heated. I think Janet Yellen has a steep learning curve when it comes to grasping the significance of her own words and perhaps does not yet understand that she needs to be very, very careful about what she says.

I can still recall Ben Bernanke sounding a hawkish note on the Tapering thing last year and the havoc that produced! It did not take him, or the various Fed governors very long to hit the talk circuit sounding a much more dovish note after they observed the reaction of the various markets.

let me close this by noting that I am sincerely grateful for all of you who took the time out of your schedules to write and post here in response to my solicitation about making a few changes to the site. I cannot honestly make the time to thank each and every one of you personally by responding to your posts but I do want you to know how appreciative I am for both the kind words and very good counsel. Some of you should be webmasters because it is obvious that you are far, far more knowledgeable about internet publishing and websites than I am!

As some of you know, I have wondered at times whether the harsh emails that too often have filled my private email box were worth putting up with in order to keep writing. Sometimes I forget that there are far more very kind, and very gracious people out there and that they, more often than not, usually are quiet and reserved. hearing from some of you as well as some of the regulars here, has been a great source of encouragement to me so I thank you for that!


  1. Hey Dan,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on CL.

    As for the harsh emails and messages, I think you should start ignoring them completely from now on and perhaps even consider not post about the gold conspiracy stuff anymore. It's just not worth writing or talking about it daily or weekly. And I know you do so mostly for the sake of those innocent ones who are new to the market and do not know any better. But you have to look after yourself first and foremost. Just save your precious time and energy and focus elsewhere rather than continue to respond to such tripe. To be successful traders, and I learned some of this from you, we are programmed to try and pay as little attention to the 'noise' and to just focus on what's most important to our trading. I used to respond to the conspiracy crowd myself, but I find that I can make much better use of my time just studying my charts, planning out my next moves, analyzing my mistakes and most important of all, getting rest. Anything that relates to that crowd and their thinking is just noise and meaningless towards my trading.

    Try and enjoy your summer, Dan and all the best to your trading as always.


  2. Dan, I second Livermore. Please stop wasting your time on the negativity (hater emails and cult gold bugs). Your views are the only views that matter. Be a pro and block out the nonsense. You must be pretty damn good at this trading game if you do this for a living so don't worry about the amateur hour opinions.

    All the best,

  3. Hi Dan- I personally think a donate button is a good idea for your blog. I donate a lot of my engineering services to universities and high schools, because I love to see young people getting into the field. However, charity can only go so far. Especially when you have a family and a garden to tend to!

  4. Thanks Dan, appreciate the commentary.
    The ISIS/crude oil angle is interesting and far from over.

  5. Thanks for the post Dan. Lots of moving parts in these markets to watch for. With the higher number of long oil contracts hedge funds have now compared to 2008 (more than double), seems these managers are getting more and more "brazen" over time in their risk taking to make money for clients... and maybe there are more of them.

    It may have been mentioned before but anyone know are the large index commodity funds, etf's, etn's, power etfs, and the like in the "other reportable" category for COT reports?

  6. Hi Dan,
    If Baghdad falls, this will spread. It may spread anyway. Just a few years ago fanatics had to rely on western bombing to soften up things for them, now they just set their sights on a sovereign government and start butchering. I think they're shrewd enough to know that the oil under their feet need not be developed immediately, so they will abide unproductive chaos for a long time, since that seems to benefit them. They may not care if the spigot is turned down or off for a while. If you were going to bet on one of the worst-case outcomes, how would you play it in the market?

  7. Hey Dan,

    So if you're thinking of going the donate route, definitely checkout gittip then: https://www.gittip.com/about/

    I'm told that true wealth is time and money, so try setup some good boundaries for yourself; maybe time how long you spend when blogging/commenting, then make sure you spend the same amount of time with your familia at a minimum and only come back to blog once you have done so ;)

    Have a blessed Sunday!

    ~ Total Noob

  8. ...on a side note, have you thought of "tweeting" on Twitter Dan? :D

    It's only 140 characters per tweet; it would train you to compress your posts (thereby having more time for other important things too) and when you have "extra time", you could always come back to blog and even tweet a link back to your blog post so that your twitter feed is in sync.

  9. Hi Dan

    I second Livermore. Please stop wasting your time on the hater emails. The small religious goldbug crowd is kind of married to the yellow metal and your objective comments seem to interfere in that marriage. They simply don't get it and never will.

  10. Good Sunday Dan,
    I started to write to you yesterday but I got pulled away. From the previous post, I am like Gil, long time follower of you from when you used to post over @ Mineset on occassion. I have said it before, people have no idea how much time you are devoting to your posts, I cannot believe how many posts you have been doing on a daily basis lately, especially with the little volatility we have seen in the past year and especially as of late! God bless you.
    I am one of those people who do care what others think, it's a good quality but it can be self-destructing at times, you probably understand what I am saying. From following you since 2003, I can say that no one should ever question your integrity, you are the most trusted person, in my eyes, that writes about the markets on the internet. There is a ton of crap out there and what you do truly does help lots of people!
    I have to agree with JL on this post as well. Stop giving the bugs notice and do what you do best and that is being yourself! You are one in 10 million and I wish nothing but the best for you and your family!

  11. Coming back to the increasing OI in crude:
    I don't want to negate your thoughts, but I need to mention the ever growing flow of money into these contracts.
    I have witnessed this from 1991 on, and since abt 2004 I am not astonished anymore about anything. ...

    It is a different case in the copper mkt. The discrepancy between two speculative groups (computerized MM vs. discretionary OR) was interesting indeed.
    "Funnily enough" it shrank after the Chinese warehouse scandal got revealed, and the more fundamentally orientated OR booked profits.
    A new "conspiracy theory", I know, sorry for that, but for me it is an explanation.
    Thanks so far and have agood time.

  12. " Sometimes I forget that there are far more very kind, and very gracious people out there and that they, more often than not, usually are quiet and reserved. hearing from some of you as well as some of the regulars here, has been a great source of encouragement to me so I thank you for that!"

    Dan, thank you for this comment. I am not a trader, I am a quiet one, just trying to survive on buying pm. You are the ONLY one I trust now on how the market "might" go, since you are only pointing out the signs to watch for. These salesman who say, gold might hit $1800 buy the end of the year, I ask, what year? I do not believe or trust them at all. I have taken that from you in a post weeks ago. I would like to add my thanks to all the others who have done so. Thank you!

  13. It was about 2 weeks ago I mentioned the possibility that Iraq would serve up an opportunity whereby the US (and SA) eventually takes on Iran over there given how this situation seems to be playing out.
    There is no shortage of Iranian "advisors" or troops already working in Iraq.
    The combination of sunni/Saudi vs. shia/ Iran and the shia/anti-US element already in Iraq sounds like a recipe for eventual conflict and engagement.

    Let your imagination consider how this could play out after reading some of comments and sentiment at this point in time. The US neefing to defend the Green Zone (or somewhere else in Bahhdad) and coming across or engaging some type of shia contingent (Al-Sadr or Iran's Revolutionary Guard or their advisors seems a given at this still early stage.

    ZH excerpt......
    "....Parallel with the fighting, perhaps an even more important development were the statements by the regional religious leaders, those of both Iran and Iraq.
    First, it was in Iraq where a Shiite Muslim cleric threatened to attack U.S. military advisers when they arrive in the country to help Iraq’s government fight Sunni extremists.
    As The Hill reported, in a sermon on Friday, Nassir al-Saedi, a loyalist to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, warned of an attack against the U.S., whom he called “the occupier,” Sky News reported.

    "We will be ready for you if you are back," said al-Saedi.
    The warning comes days after President Obama announced he was sending 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq to bolster government security forces and help combat Sunni militant members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
    The British Telegraph also reported that tens of thousands of heavily armed fighters from al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi army, paraded through the streets of Baghdad Saturday.
    The Shiite militia said it does not need or want help from the U.S.
    So much for a friendly third welcome of the US "liberators."
    "If the Americans are thinking about coming back here, all of we Iraqis will become time bombs - we will eat them alive," said Adel Jabr Albawi, who marched in Saturday’s parade, according to the Telegraph. "We can deal with Isis ourselves."

    The threats from al-Sadr supporters could potentially open a second front for U.S. forces heading to Iraq.
    But it was not just Iraq clerics who raged against a return of the US. Also joining the anti-US chorus was - perhaps surprisingy all things considered- Iran's own top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has vocally come out against US intervention in neighboring Iraq, where Islamic extremists and Sunni militants opposed to Tehran have seized a number of towns and cities.

    "We strongly oppose the intervention of the U.S. and others in the domestic affairs of Iraq," Khamenei was quoted as saying by the IRNA state news agency on Sunday, in his first reaction to the crisis.
    "The main dispute in Iraq is between those who want Iraq to join the U.S. camp and those who seek an independent Iraq," said Khamenei, who has the final say over government policies. "The U.S. aims to bring its own blind followers to power."
    Well, he is right after all.
    As a reminder, Shiite Iran supports the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and has said it would consider any request for military aid.
    Which covers the religious influence of both Iran and Iraq. But what about that other staple in everything "middle-east"- Israel? Well, they too made an appearance this weekend when it was revealed that the surprise winner from the ISIS surge, the Kurdish Regional Government, which suddenly finds itself as a major oil producer and exporter, has found its first buyer of oil. None other than Israel...."

  14. Steve, all you gotta remember is pm salesmen do not sell toothpaste; secondly, just about everyone here has pretty strong and solid thoughts about the shoe clerk perma bull on the pm's, and I heartily agree! For Grandpa Russell to proclaim a new bull mkt in gold and silver > last week's action was truly SAD . He must have forgotten a lot of technical wisdom he gained over the years. Well, we see what happens in 3 hours, right? Take care all, and good luck!! Sparks of course from the 'Don't Pass'

    1. But didnt you read about the thirty reasons why the bottom in gold is written in cement?

    2. Steve, thanks for your words of experience.

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  16. The WSJ notes that the Kurds in Northwestern Iraq have lost no time selling oil from war-torn-Iraq to Israel http://online.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-kurds-deliver-oil-amid-unrest-1403336784

    This is apparently illegal under the Iraqi constitution and has provoked the condemnation of both the Iraqi Government and the USA.

    Oh, hang on - but this is Israel..... so we won't find any of this kind of thing happening then http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-seals-board-north-korea-flagged-tanker-for-return-to-libya/2014/03/17/ddab14bc-add6-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html

    When I was a kid, I was told that "If you break it, you own it". Clearly, different rules apply, depending upon whether "It" is useful base for you to supply your Al Qaeda jihadi buddies in order to topple the nasty nasty Assad regime in Syria, or whether "It" is a horrible horrible Shiite-led country which is trying to fight off your aforementioned buddies after they had their asses whipped by the aforementioned Assad.

    You think I'm kidding about hypocrisy and dual standards, right? - try this for size: http://www.businessinsider.com/israel-grants-golan-heights-oil-license-2013-2?IR=T& and note Dick Cheney's involvement.

    For Israel to seek to exploit mineral reserves in the occupied Golan Heights is plainly illegal in international law. Japan was succesfully sued by Singapore before the International Court of Justice for exploitation of Singapore’s oil resources during the second world war. The argument has been made in international law that an occupying power is entitled to operate oil wells which were previously functioning and operated by the sovereign power, in whose position the occupying power now stands. But there is absolutely no disagreement in the authorities and case law that the drilling of new wells by an occupying or insurgent power is illegal. http://wtfrly.com/2013/08/27/genie-energy-israel-subsidiary-granted-oil-gas-exploration-license-in-golan-heights-amid-syria-war/#.U6dKqrHjJC8

    1. I believe at some point, after Assad is gone, that Israel will own that entire region around the Golan Heights.
      Once this regional conflict eventually simmers down the maps will look a bit different then at present. Lebanon and Hezbollah at some point will have to defend against ISIS.

      Israel will take advantage of the chaos just like any other able country would do. They'll fully retake that Golan area at some point.

  17. I have many American friends, I do not conflate the Obama administration with the American people, and I have due respect for the typically brave individually called upon to perform this dirty work - but if the average American has any sense of shame, then people should surely cringe at the hypocrisy evident in this statement http://rt.com/usa/167708-us-kerry-iraq-libya/

    1. A huge number over here, trending toward a majority, share your dim view of American foreign policy. It makes many of us ashamed of our government, and we're glad that not everyone conflates the two.
      They say here that there is no difference between the parties. On economic and social issues that's not the case, but it certainly is true with regard to foreign policy. And every succeeding president is worse and more imperial than the last.

  18. My truck gets about 12 mpg, therefore I have been holding large UGA positions for over 3 years now, which I purchased when gasoline was at $2.00/gallon.

    Based on Dan's observations, I will be selling it next week for sure to lock in my gains. I now have enough "profit" in those positions to fill up my truck at $2.00/gallon for at least 5 years.

    Thank you Dan for our honest opinion.

    1. Unlike the miners, you know how to hedge. Good going.

  19. By the way, by the very large move in GLD and GDX last week on 3x above average volume, my prediction is that gold and silver will vastly outperform oil the next 12 months.

    I also have a large position in XLE which I will be selling and exchanging into a mix of GDX, FCX, and SCCO.

    1. Sounds dangerous Mark. Energy stocks have been in a bull for 2 years and year 3 could end up being the mania phase causing commercials to cover shorts. I beleive Armstrongs turn down point for gold is end of this month. Another thing to note is energy stocks are showing no signs of weakness at this stage. Could be like final phase of the .coms

    2. In additions Marty posted something to the effect that equities are the new gold international safe haven last week. Will be interesting going forward

  20. Dan, I want to thank you for sharing your trading insights with us. I find this very important because my engineering background tells me that there is a lot of (speaking plainly) lying going on by the media and government. I can come here and find a reasoned voice that causes a little of the fog to rise.

    I also want to commend you on living your values. As a Christian myself, it is encouraging to find others who walk the talk.

    Your example is your gift to us.

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Dan...when I see this kind of spam, I'm thinking that a symbolic subscription fee would protect you from this kind of junk...not that I'm going to ever click on one of their bloody links, but they really piss me off.

  22. Just a link towards the analysis regarding gold of my friend Gilles Leclerc, the French trader. It's in French, but you have interesting charts regardless the language.
    As for Dan, I highly respect Gilles as a trader and as a person, which is why I'm posting the link, hope it's ok with Dan.

    As a summary, Gilles is now more optimistic about gold. He bought at 1200 last december, sold 50% at 1350, and now intends to reinforce (buy stop) again the sold 50% if gold closes above 1335 and a line of cup and handle, intermediate target 1420 then final target 1530, stop loss 1230.

    To give you the other opinion, Bo Polny finely reported 1240 as the low of gold and is now forecasting :
    - a top in june
    - a pullback down during summer
    - the same forecast of 2000 before year end.
    So, to his point of view, we will have a double bottom or at least a correction from june highs this summer.
    My opinion? I don't know yet, I'm just back from holidays, only thing I know : it moved too fast on the daily time unit so that I try to trade there. I'm watching the weekly time unit and wait for the end of the month / quarter to have a better idea myself.

    Have a nice week,


  23. The Golan Heights gets hotter....

    "...The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says ten soldiers were killed after Israel carried out raids to avenge the death of an 13-year-old boy

    At least 10 Syrian soldiers have been killed in a series of Israeli retaliatory raids triggered by the death of a 13-year-old boy in a missile strike, a British-based group has said.

    The soldiers are reported to have died after Israeli war planes struck nine military sites in Syria overnight, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – which said Brigade 90, a unit deployed in the Golan Heights area, had been the main target.

    Two tanks and two artillery batteries were destroyed in the strikes, the observatory added. The raids were Israel's biggest retaliatory action since the start of Syria's bloody civil war more than three years ago.

    The reports of Syrian casualties came after Israel claimed it had scored direct hits on nine targets in response to the death on Sunday of Mohammed Qaraqara, an Arab-Israeli schoolboy who was inside a civilian jeep when it was struck by what is believed to have been a Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missile.

    The incident happened in the Israel-held section of Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War, while Mohammed was travelling with his father, who was delivering water as part of his work as a contractor for the Israeli defence ministry. It was the first Israeli fatality resulting from the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Israel-held territory.

    Previous episodes – including one in March in which four soldiers..."


  24. Off topic, but notable because of what it actually implies.
    When the food supply becomes tighter the scope of whats edible expands...

    June 23, 2014, 1:58 a.m. EDT
    "In China, violent clash breaks out over dog-eating event"


    1. I think Obama is getting hungry reading that.

  25. Dan, love your site, love the info you provide. My friends and I trust your views (because we have seen them play out as you have stated they would and WHY they would)... With that being said, can the S&P just keep climbing? Considering the amount of flush cash available, can the commodity sector and the equity market just ride in tandem up up and away? Aren't market corrections seemingly naturally occurring parts of an economy? Is it because of how artificially propped up it is thanks to QE, high-frequency trading and the amount of available cash on the sidelines? It just bothers me that the market seems to do nothing but go up regardless of the actual state of our economy. Actually, anyone with an opinion, thoughts, facts, what have you... please share!

    1. I'm a novice hack, but (and this may reinforce that statement) I think Martin Armstrong has the most sensible macro view of things. He sees the stock market going up for another year and a bit. Problems in Europe and Japan, then potentially China, will insure a strong bid for the dollar and dollar related assets, it's the only deep enough sink for institutional funds. Armstrong argues that the reserve currency is the last to fall. His timing is based on cycles, with the next big turn coming in Sept. of next year. That doesn't mean the market drops 40%, but rather that the macro picture changes in a way that marks the beginning of the downturn for the US.

  26. I'm now out of XLE at just over $101.

    It was a great run, but I'm not going to get greedy.

  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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