Sunday, December 9

Week 388 - Has The 4-Yr Commodities Bear Market Ended?

Situation: In Q2 of 2014, the trade-weighted index of 19 Futures Contracts for raw commodities peaked (DJCI; see Yahoo Finance), as did the SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE; see Yahoo Finance). Both hit bottom in early Q1 of 2016. That should have been the end of the Bear Market but prices have not risen much since then. On the plus side, both ETFs tested their early 2016 bottom in Q3 of 2017 and failed to reach it, suggesting that prices for both are in a new (albeit weak) uptrend. 

Interestingly, the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD; see Yahoo Finance) has traced a similar track, peaking in Q1 of 2014, bottoming at the beginning of Q1 2016, and failing a test of that low point late in 2016. Other metrics also suggest that the Bear Market has ended. For example, recently posted earnings for Exxon Mobil (XOM) in Q3 of 2018 were robust enough to have reached a level last reached in Q3 of 2014.

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to track key investment metrics for companies that buy and/or extract raw commodities for processing, transport those by using 18-wheel tractor-trailers or railroads, or manufacture the diesel powered and natural-gas powered heavy equipment tractors that are used to mine and harvest raw commodities. Confine attention to companies that have at least a BBB+ S&P rating on their bonds and at least a B+/M rating on their common stocks,  as well as the 16+ year trading record on the NYSE that is needed for long-term quantitative analysis by the BMW Method.

Execution: see Table.

Bottom Line: Near-month futures prices for commodities have come down off a supercycle that blossomed in 1999, and are now back to approximately where they started. This represents a classic “reversion to the mean”, likely due to supply constraints growing out of the somewhat rapid buildout of China’s economy. We’re not at the end of a 4-Yr Bear Market. Instead, we’re in the long tail of a remarkably strong 2-decade commodities Bull Market. It is important to note that commodity production is changing away from fossil fuels. However, petroleum products still represent more than 30% of trade-weighted commodity production. Going forward, the composition of that production will shift toward environmentally cleaner transportation fuels. Gasoline and diesel will yield dominance to CNG (compressed natural gas) and hydrogen (sourced from natural gas). This will mirror the shift toward clean electrical energy that has replaced coal with natural gas during the build-out of wind and solar sources, along with the necessary enhancements to electricity storage and transmission.  

Risk Rating: 8 (where 10-Yr US Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, gold bullion = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into CAT, XOM, R and UNP, and also own shares of NSC, BRK-B and CMI.

"The 2 and 8 Club" (CR) 2017 Invest Tune All rights reserved.

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