Overnight: Commodity Price Surge

The Dow closed up 88 points or 0.5% while the S&P gained 0.8% to 2198 and the Nasdaq rose 0.9%.


It was a quiet session on the local bourse yesterday. Volume was weak as the ASX200 meandered its way in a minimal range to a soggy close. But again the lack of movement in the index belies what was going on underneath amongst the sectors.

It would seem investors are simply not sure how they should be positioned going into year-end. I have highlighted in the previous couple of sessions that it appeared the long sell-off of yield stocks and defensives was finding a bottom and the abrupt run-up in resource stocks was tipping over. But yesterday, we went back the other way once more.

On a tick-up in the oil price, energy was the best performer on the day with a 1.7% gain. It would seem traders were heartened by the WTI price rising back through the US$45/bbl mark on cautious confidence of an OPEC agreement being reached, rather than tanking down through 40. That buying will prove rather prescient today.

Materials chimed in with a 0.3% gain but other than a flat day for the banks, all other sectors finished in the red. Notably, consumer staples and healthcare each fell 1.3%, telcos fell 0.9% and utilities fell 0.5%. The theme of the previous couple of sessions was reversed. Perhaps the seemingly relentless rise of US bond yields is just too much.

The US bond yield stalled last night and the US dollar index dipped for the first time in several sessions. The door was opened for commodities to take centre stage.


APEC meetings are not what we’d normally think of as market movers but aside from the attention being drawn by it being President Obama’s final outing, the attendance in Peru of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping has provided us with some headlines.

The Russian president sees “a high probability” of an agreement being reached in Vienna on November 30, when OPEC tries to implement a production freeze. Russia will cooperate, Putin suggested, as a production freeze “is not an issue for us”.

Those comments were worth 4.2% for the West Texas crude price, which rose US$1.92 to US$47.49/bbl.

What is good for oil is seen as good for other commodities. Meanwhile, the Chinese president used his speech in Peru to confirm China’s support for a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific. The Chinese government is pushing for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership of 16 countries. The now dead-in-the-water TPP was to involve 12 countries, including the big one, the US. We might presume China sees an opportunity to further step-up its global strength as the trade wall goes up around the United States.

Free trade offers up the possibility of increased Chinese imports of raw materials, including lead, up 1% on the LME last night, aluminium and zinc, up 1.5%, copper, up 2.5%, and nickel, up 5%.

Xi Jinping did not, however, manage to light a flame under the bulks, which few disagree have run too far, too fast. The thermal coal price was steady last night and iron ore plunged US$2.80 to US$69.80/t.

The 0.3% dip in the US dollar index to 100.97 provided a green light for those commodities that did rally to do so, and also allowed gold to tick back US$3.30 to US$1211.90/oz.

And the Aussie to tick back 0.3% to US$0.7361.

Quadruple Watching

The energy sector duly led Wall Street higher last night with materials trailing in its wake. But otherwise the positive mood was market-wide. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq all simultaneously hit new all-time highs, for the first time since August. Back in August, US small caps were underperforming. Last night the Russell 2000 index also hit a new all-time high, marking a rare quadrella.

What’s good for M&M Enterprises is good for the country. Except in this case Milo Minderbinder is Donald Trump and no one can yet identify the Catch-22.

Outside of the commodity story there was no real new news to drive Wall Street higher last night. Only the dip in the greenback after a long run higher could be seen as any particular incentive. And the ten-year bond rate stalling.

Donald Trump continues to interview prospective cabinet members but there has been no new news on that front either. Either way, US business television currently features commentator after commentator suggesting a Trump presidency cannot be anything other than positive for the stock market. They just can’t see any other scenario.

The previous couple of sessions showed signs the Trump euphoria rally might be losing steam. Not so last night.


Fresh all-time highs on Wall Street and surging commodity prices. How will this affect the Australian market today? Forget iron ore, the SPI Overnight has closed up 40 points or 0.8%.

Earnings results are due out today from CYBG (CYB), Fisher & Paykel Healthcare ((FPH)) and Technology One ((TNE)). There is another round of AGMs to digest including another prominent Kiwi, The A2 Milk Company ((A2M)).

Greg Peel

About Greg Peel

Greg Peel joined Macquarie Bank in 1986 and acquired trading experience in equities, currency, fixed income and commodities derivatives, ultimately being appointed director of equity derivatives trading. He later published In With The Smart Money (a plain English guide to the mysterious world of financial markets and derivatives) and acted as a consultant to boutique investment funds. In 2004 Greg joined FNArena as a contributing writer. He is now a director and principal of the company. Greg compliments the journalistic background of the FNArena team with lengthy experience as a financial markets proprietary trader.

View more articles by Greg Peel →