Hedge funds cut positions to ’09 low as Goldman says buy

Hedge funds cut bets on a commodity rally to a four-year low on signs of surplus supply in everything from coffee to zinc before Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said prices had fallen too far and investors should buy.

Speculators reduced net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options in the week ended March 5 by 9.2% to 405,885 contracts, the lowest since March 2009, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. They are the most bearish on copper in four years, and are also betting on declines for coffee, hogs, sugar, soybean oil, wheat and natural gas.

Commodities retreated 4.8% since reaching a four- month high Feb. 13, even as optimism about the global economy drove the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities to a 56-month peak. Supplies will outpace demand for 12 of 18 metals and agriculture goods, according to Barclays Plc and Rabobank International. Goldman raised its three-month outlook for raw materials to “overweight” from “neutral” on March 7, saying accelerating Chinese growth will support prices.

“There is a disagreement about the extent of how much demand for commodities will rise based on growth,” said Jack Ablin, who helps oversee about $66 billion of assets as chief investment officer of BMO Private Bank in Chicago. “Commodities became a victim of their own success as higher prices have created more supplies. People who have been looking for a vehicle that can generate income and keep pace with inflation have invested in equities.”

Trading Partners

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 commodities climbed 1% last week. The MSCI equity index gained 1.8%, while the dollar rose 0.5% against six trading partners. Treasuries lost 0.9%, a Bank of America Corp. index shows. The GSCI gauge was little changed today.

The raw-materials index rallied 85% in the four years to Dec. 31 as record global stimulus measures revived economies and sent prices of gold, corn, soybeans, copper and cotton to records. A weakening dollar also increased the appeal of commodities denominated in the currency. The dollar climbed 3.7% against six major trading partners this year, the best start since 2009.

Investors pulled $4.66 billion from commodities this year, according to EPFR Global, which tracks money flows. That compares with an inflow of $5.05 billion a year earlier, the researcher said. Commodity assets under management totaled $430 billion in January, from a record $451 billion in April, data from Barclays show.

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