Commodity Market's Roiling Riptides Of Prices


The slick slide for oil, gold and other commodities over the past 24 hours has been as dramatic as the mercurial rise to record heights.

With oil below $100, the next leg down could be a steep one. Looking back to the lows of this year, many traders point to technical charts that indicate oil prices could return to the February lows in the mid-$80 range.

In a note to clients this morning, Goldman Sachs says the market moved quickly to its year end price target of $105, "leaving near term price risk skewed to the downside and the market vulnerable to speculative liquidations." With "cyclical weakening" continuing, Goldman sees oil prices falling towards $90 this spring. While trading guru Dennis Gartman says the downturn could last 2,3, or 4 weeks, we could see some rallies in the interim

The riptides that have roiled these markets have just as much to do with investor sentiment. One day, one point of view sends oil prices rallying $4. The next day another perspective brings them tumbling down $5. "It's like a horse with blinders on, but the horse only sees out of one side at a time," says Cameron Hanover analyst Peter Beutel. "One minute the worry is inflation, supply issues, or the weather--focus is on everything bullish. The next the focus is on the fact the Fed may not continue cutting rates, the dollar rallies, demand declines and oil prices fall."

And this "betting with blinders" mentality has hit other commodities as well. Look at gold, which has fallen about $115 from its all-time high on Monday of nearly $1034.

Could gold hit $900 before returning to $1,000? It came very close overnight--with April COMEX gold futures hitting $904.17. "Continued margin selling and dollar rally is getting more traders out of the markets," says RBC Wealth Management's George Gero. He says "crude weakness has sent late comers to the recent highs who find sell stops and are not finding ready buyers."

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