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Commodities Sell-Off Overdone: Goldman Sachs

Monday, 11 Mar 2013 | 12:05 PM ET
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Goldman Sachs turned bullish on commodities on Monday, upping its near-term return forecast from 2 percent to 6 percent, despite renewed concerns about a slowdown in China.

Prices for commodities such as oil fell sharply in February, as weak data raised concerns about the economic strength of China, the world's second-biggest oil consumer. Brent crude oil traded below $110 on Monday, down from a three-month high of $119.17 on February 8.

(Read More: China's Latest Data Show Uneven Economic Recovery)

However, Goldman Sachs said the drop in prices was "too much, too soon".

"Although volatility rose during February, it did so from extremely low levels and in some cases from record low levels," Goldman analysts wrote in a note.

"As a result, while we have sympathy for a structural decline in volatility, we still see the drop as too much too soon and would look for opportunities to take advantage of historically low volatility, particularly in the context of extremely high geopolitical risks in the oil market."

The analysts said they favored petroleum and copper in the near-term.

"Petroleum's strong near-term fundamentals, owing to a combination of limited spare OPEC capacities and solid emerging market demand growth, will continue to lend support to a backwardation for Brent and key product markets… Expected pipeline debottlenecking in the U.S. in second quarter 2013 will also support higher WTI prices during the summer," they said.

(CNBC Explains: Backwardation)

The analysts forecast demand from China for copper and other metals will rise during second quarter of 2013 "on the back of continued growth in construction completions from the previous construction boom, property sales and power infrastructure-related demand."

However, Goldman Sachs was more bearish when it comes to gold. In a report two weeks ago, Goldman forecast bullion prices will fall in 2013, and also cut its 2014 outlook. Nomura, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and Societe Generale have also cut their gold forecasts in the last two months.

(Read More: Gold Warnings Surge as Banks Jump Off Bandwagon)

"The last leg lower in gold prices over the past three weeks has occurred with stable real rates and, while likely excessive in that respect, we believe it has nonetheless exposed a quickly waning conviction in holding gold positions, especially ETFs," said Goldman Sachs in the Monday note.

The bank's shift to a positive short-term stance on commodities comes on the same day Reuters reported that Goldman's commodity revenue collapsed by more than 60 percent year-on-year in 2012.

(Read More: Goldman Leads Decline as Wall Street Commodity Revenues Plummet)

But Goldman Sachs still remains more cautious about the commodity sector's medium- and long-term prospects.

"Our 12-month neutral recommendation remains unchanged as our returns forecast is still a more subdued 3 percent, as we continue to remain structurally neutral on long-dated oil and commodity prices due to the structural supply-side response to persistently high prices," they wrote.

- By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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