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How Should Investors Play the Italian Panic?

Katie Holliday I Writer CNBC Asia
Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013 | 2:47 AM ET
Play the Italy Panic Through Natural Gas: Pro
Tom Essaye, President of U.S. commodities trading firm Kinsale Trading, discusses why he thinks the fallout from the Italian election saga will take its toll on commodities.

Over the past week, risk appetite has soured following a political stalemate in Rome and anxiety over the U.S. "sequester" spending cuts that kick in on March 1, but strategists told CNBC that there is a way to trade this panic.

(Read More: Italy 'Hung, Drawn and Quartered')

They point to a range of assets that are not solely influenced by risk sentiment – these include natural gas stocks, precious metals and shorting instruments.

Tom Essaye, president of U.S. commodities trading firm Kinsale Trading, for example, is looking at stocks exposed to the natural gas market, because he sees no correlation between natural gas and global risk sentiment.

"There are bullish tendencies in natural gas as it is uncorrelated to all the madness occurring in Europe and across the globe. There is money to be made there, specifically in the tanker stocks and the gathering and processing stocks," he said.

(Watch More: Trading US Natural Gas in 2013)

Italian elections left no party in the majority, raising fears Italy's much needed economic reforms will flounder. This development knocked global markets off their 2013 rally, with both the S&P 500 and the Nikkei falling about 2 percent on news of the Italian stalemate earlier in the week.

Essaye added that as the euro zone crisis accelerates again some commodities will weaken significantly. "This will specifically affect industrial commodities, such as copper, oil and base metals and you will see a rally in precious metals at the same time," he said.

"This almost makes me want to go into something uncorrelated like natural gas. We've seen inventories here (U.S.) come down in recent weeks and as we've had a cold snap demand for power generation is up," he said.

Source: World Gold Council

Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at Australian stockbroker CMC Markets, has seen increased demand for a range of "uncorrelated" assets since risk sentiment began to turn last week after the minutes of U.S. Federal Reserve's January meeting hinted quantitative easing (QE) could be coming to an end. But Chairman Ben Bernanke has since quelled those fears in a speech to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, reiterating his commitment to easing.

(Read More: Fed's Bernanke Stays the Course)

"Over the past week we have seen increased demand for short-selling on risk-on products, such as CFDs over major indices, precious metals, and for shorting the euro," he said.

The CFDs (contracts for difference) are trading instruments which allow investors to go long or short on a variety of asset classes.

Spooner said investors have been buying CFDs shorting major indices, such as the S&P 500, the German DAX and the Hang Seng, in a bid to protect themselves against further falls.

(Read More: Just Like That, Safe Havens Are Back in Favor)

He also saw increased appetite for both gold and silver, which he said was due both to relief over the Fed's continuation of easing and as a safe haven move. Spooner added that people were shorting the euro versus the U.S. dollar on concerns that the euro zone crisis will resurface. The euro has fallen 4.3 percent against the dollar since February 1.

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