This year’s recovery in precious metals prices – and the sudden spike in gold/silver mining stocks – convinced a lot of people that a new bull market had begun. Last week’s brutal smack-down scared the hell out of many of the same folks.
The latest commitment of traders (COT) report implies that we should all relax. Things are playing out pretty much according to a script that’s been in place for decades — and which points to happy times by early next year.
The quick and dirty COT story is that it’s a snapshot of what the big players in gold/silver futures contracts are up to. There are two main groups in this market: the commercials (mostly big banks and companies that buy metal to turn it into coins, jewelry and industrial products) and speculators who bet on price moves. The former consistently fool the latter into guessing wrong at turning points. That is, the speculators are usually way long at the top and very short at the bottom. So you can tell where prices are headed over next the six or so months by looking at what the speculators are betting on and assuming that if they’re excited, they’re wrong. The following chart illustrates the point. Ignore everything here except the red line, which represents the speculators. When it’s way up, they’re very long and prices are about to fall, and vice versa.
This year they’ve gone record long, which explains the fast recovery in metals prices and mining stocks: The speculators were piling in. This of course sets the stage for an eventual correction. So what happened last week was to be expected (though it was several months overdue, illustrating the point that the COT report is great for direction but dangerously unreliable for timing).