Measuring the Metal Markets

Andy Waldock |

The recent selloff in the metal markets has broken the sideways trading range they've been in for more than a year. We'll begin by briefly recapping their recent history back to the 2011 high water marks. Copper was the first market to peak. An expanding Chinese economy and a low interest rate environment drove this market. This led to large end line consumers purchasing forward contracts to meet future demand. Finally, copper peaked at $4.65 per pound in February of 2011. The silver market peaked in April of 2011 at nearly $50 per ounce. This was by far the most speculative of the metals markets and we'll get into the ramifications of a speculative rally, shortly. Platinum made its high in August of 2011 at $1,918 per ounce. Gold was the slowest to peak finally reaching $1,923 per ounce in September of 2011.

The recent declines have come amid a backdrop of rising interest rates. The language coming from the Federal Reserve Board suggests that they are looking to tighten money supply and withdraw some of the excess cash that has been pumped into the system beginning in September 2001.

The recent lows mark very important Fibonacci points. The Fibonacci sequence originated in 13th century Italy by Leonardo Pisano, nicknamed Fibonacci. The mathematician found the pattern of 0+1 = 1, 1+1 = 2, 2+1 = 5, 5+3 = 8, 8+5 = 13, etc. This pattern is found throughout nature to include flower seeds, shells, pineapple segments, etc. Their adaptation to trading financial markets came through the use of wave analysis and the energy released in the action and reaction of those waves.

The trading adaptation converts the Fibonacci sequence into ratios. The ratios are then used in conjunction with peak and trough analysis to determine not only potential support and resistance levels but also, the energy required to turn the tide and begin a new sequence in the opposite direction. The two primary Fibonacci ratios used in trading are .38 and .62. These are rounded for the sake of simplicity. A trip to the beach will explain their importance in that wave one and wave two typically encroach upon the beach by a third of normal shoreline measurement while the third wave may advance nearly twice as far prior to its retreat.

Putting these ratios to use in the metal markets we can see that gold, platinum and copper have all retreated by approximately 38% from their all time highs made in 2011. Platinum has retreated by a third, copper by 36% and gold by 39%. Silver, as the outlier has retreated by 63%, almost stopping exactly at the .62 ratio. The depth of silver's decline also helps it hold its crown as the most speculative and volatile of the metals.

The Fibonacci numbers don't possess enough voodoo to generate trading action on their own. However, when combined with the considerable commercial buying we've seen on this decline these retracements must be viewed in the context of a pullback within a longer term upwards trend. Beginning with the recent biggest loser we see that commercial traders have been net buyers in the silver market for 19 of the last 23 weeks, nearly tripling their net long position within that time. Gold, copper and platinum are also getting strong support by the commercial traders on this decline. Their actions tell us two things. First, they don't expect the end of cheap money to be the end of strength in the metals markets. Secondly, this decline is a buying opportunity.

Specifically, we view platinum as the most attractive buying opportunity. This is based on its industrial use as well as the escalating mining cost of platinum going forward. Currently, platinum is trading below its cost of forward production. The mining cost is about $1,500 per ounce while the futures market is trading around $1,350. Furthermore, platinum is the primary component in catalytic converters of diesel engines. Diesel engines continue to take market share in Europe, India and China. This leads us to believe that in the wake of the metal markets' declines; platinum is most likely the safest one to buy.


DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:


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