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Commodities: Should Investors Stay On Sidelines Or Jump In?

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2008 | 10:25 AM ET
Commodities Bust
Commodities Bust

Has the commodities rout run its course? Crude oil is slightly higher this morning--so is heating oil and RBOB gasoline and natural gas continue to be the strongest parts of the energy complex.

The sharp rally in gold this morning signals most hedge fund liquidation is now over, says RBC Wealth Management's George Gero. The dollar is weaker versus euro and yen and gold is up over 1 percent.

Meanwhile, oil prices briefly dipped below $100 a barrel overnight on concerns that demand for black gold has weakened, but are not over $101. NYMEX crude futures are still $10 below last week's high, but still some bulls say the drop hasn't been that drastic and corrections are par for the course with prices at these levels.

A real test of the bull's stamina will come tomorrow with the Energy Department's weekly oil inventory report--an increase in supply is expected as refiners continue their seasonal maintenance operations and imports rebounded. CNBC contributor Addison Armstong, director of research at Tradition Energy, forecasts crude supplies rose by 800,000 barrels last week, while refinery runs remained unchanged at just under 84 percent capacity.

Heating oil, RBOB gasoline and natural gas options expire tomorrow and natural gas futures expire Thursday adding to volatility in those markets. We're keeping our eye on natural gas, which has closed higher for the past two sessions, while crude for 3 days straight has declined. The amount of natural gas in storage--1.3 trillion cubic feet--is very close to the falling below the five-year average just as a cold front is expected to hit the East coast and Midwest next week.

With natural gas already up 25 percent so far this year, some analysts say there may be little upside left. Citi energy analyst Tim Evans is telling clients to stay on the sidelines for now. But Dennis Gartman of The Gartman Letter says the 50-62 percent retracement of the previous run higher should hold and he's starting to buy natural gas and short crude again.

Questions? Comments? energysource@cnbc.com