About Andrew Thrasher

Andrew Thrasher, CMT is an Investment Analyst for an asset management firm in Central Indiana. He specializes and writes about technical analysis as well as macro economic developments.

Are Corn Prices Poised To Rise?

While the sexy market as of late has been equities, certain commodities have begun to shape up nicely as well. I’ve been fairly vocal about commodities this year. My favorite market coming into 2014 were agricultural commodities, then a momentum divergence put an end to their rise, and in early August I began looking at Cotton ($BAL). Right now the Corn ($CORN) market has caught my attention as it enters a bullish period of seasonality, extremely low sentiment, and has potentially started a new up trend.

Price Action
First up lets look at the latest price action for Corn ($ZC_F). After the April peak, the price of corn has been in a well established down trend as we saw a 36% drop down to the October low. However, as October trading got started traders pushed corn prices above the falling trend line and we now have the beginning of a potential new up trend.

Corn price

Seasonality
Commodities often see strong headwinds and tailwinds created by seasonality. The chart below is from Signal Financial Group and shows the 10-year average seasonal pattern for corn prices. It’s not hard to notice that a low is put in at the start of October. This also happens to be what we have started to see this year, with corn prices rising since the calendar closed the door on September.

Corn seasonality

Sentiment

We know that price may be starting a new up trend and it’s happening at the beginning of the bullish seasonal period for the commodity, but what’s the general sentiment towards the crop?

The following chart is from SentimenTrader and is a proprietary index that compiles sentiment data from multiple sources for different asset classes and markets. With a current reading of 32, sentiment is near Excessive Pessimism, which has led to higher prices over the last six years when this has occurred – albeit it’s only happened twice. It appears no one likes corn anymore, which makes it an interesting market to watch.

Corn sentiment

While there are plenty of stories right now about the bumper crop that farms across the country are having, we may still see the price of corn rise going into year-end. You don’t have to be a farmer or know how to drive a tractor to follow the agricultural commodity markets. If we continue to see corn prices rise, establishing a more defined up trend, then I’ll expect sentiment to improve as well as more traders, specifically trend followers, begin to take notice.
Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

Institutional Traders Bought the Dip

After a near correction of 10% in the U.S. equity market, many traders hid behind their chairs as volatility had one of its largest multi-day advances in the last several years. While the cause of the downturn, whether it be the Ebola scare, ISIS, the end of QE, or the fact that the Royals aren’t playing as well as they should be, is irreverent in my opinion, but it’s interesting to note who may have been buying the dip.

In a recent Market Masters post I wrote for See It Market, I discussed using Commitment of Traders (COT) data as a tool to seek out turning points in varies markets. COT data is like a footprint left by buyers and sellers in the futures and options market. Luckily those footprints get categorized by the type of trader that left it. Below is a chart of the S&P 500 along with its corresponding COT net-positions in the bottom panel.

The red line represents Commercial Traders, who are large institutions and are often considered the ‘smart money.’ It’s not very often we see this trader group become net-long the equity futures markets. However, when they do get close to being or do become net-long, a bottom is often put in for the market. Last week we saw an example of this as markets were falling the Commercial Traders increased their position pushing it nearly to being net-long.

SPX COTAnother instance of institutions adding to their positions can be seen for the Dow. Commercial Traders became net-long as they followed Buffett’s mantra of buying when there’s blood in the streets. The increase in volatility appears to have opened that door for institutional traders as they have continued to stay aggressive as they have been buying the dips and going net-long at each dip so far this year.

Dow COTWhat will be telling going forward is if we do not see equities continue to rally and the market moves against the ‘smart money.’ Do they keeping buying or does the wave of selling overpower them to keep stock prices elevated?  This is something I’ll be watching as we get a new set of data at the end of each week.

 

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

Which Sectors Are Leading the Market?

With the increase in volatility over the last several weeks, I think it’s time to check back in on sector relative performance. While the U.S. equity market as a whole has gotten rocked since it’s August/September high, understanding what the underlying sectors are doing and what’s leading can be a great tool to stay in control. Over the last 30 days, the S&P 500 has lost 3.5% of its value, Utilities ($XLU) and Consumer Staples ($XLP) are actually positive and the Energy sector ($XLE) is down over 10%. While the S&P 500 ($SPY) often garners the most attention, we can’t lose focus of the nine S&P sectors that make up the index.

Health Care ($XLV) has been a consistent leader this year, spending the bulk of the last 30 weeks in the ‘Leading’ category of the Relative Rotation Graph (shown below). The Relative Rotation Graph (RRG) plots the sectors using their the trend of their relative performance against the S&P 500 as well as the momentum of that trend. Historically the sectors have moved in a clockwise fashion as they go in and out of favor relative to the index and as the momentum of their relative performance rises and falls as well.

About three weeks ago we saw that the Technology sector ($XLK) began to turn lower but remained in the ‘Leading’ category. Since then, and over the last several weeks, this once leading area of the market has shifted into the ‘Weakening’ category throttled by the decline in the momentum of its relative performance.

It’s also important to note the strength out of Financials ($XLF), and Consumer Staples. In a post on September 29th I highlighted the ratio between $XLP and the S&P 500, which was seeing a bullish divergence in momentum and ultimately led to the defensive sector outpacing the market for the last several weeks. Energy ($XLE) has continued to sink deeper into the depths of the ‘Lagging’ category with the momentum of its under-performance intensifying.

RRG chart

2014 has seen the theme of defensive strength with Utilities, Health Care, and Consumer Staples, leading the way for the bulk of the year. This likely worries equity bulls as traders steer away from the higher beta components in favor of the perceived safer sectors.

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.