Asset management, Commodity risk, Complexity, Economics, Expertise, Hedging, Market research, Policy, Risk management

Economic forecasting is exercise in futility

Economists can’t forecast for a toffee… They have missed every recession in the last four decades. And it isn’t just growth that economists can’t forecast; it’s also inflation, bond yields, unemployment, stock market price targets and pretty much everything else.” – James Montier

Forecasting commodity prices and economic indicators is demonstrably an exercise in futility. Our markets and economies are complex systems and as such, their future unfolding is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. Concretely, let’s take a look at how the leading economic analysts did at predicting oil prices, GDP growth, unemployment and stock market indices. Continue reading

Commodity price, Commodity risk, Hedging, Risk management, trend following

Risk, Uncertainty and Profit

Frank Knight, the grand old man of Chicago wrote “Risk, Uncertainty and Profit,” one of the five most important economics books of the 20th century. Among other invaluable insights, Knight proposes that, “The responsible decisions in organized economic life are price decisions; others can be reduced to routine.” Knight recognized that price at which a firm sells its products or purchases materials tends to have greater impact on profitability than any other element. Based on the income statement of an average S&P 1500 company (and assuming constant sales volumes), a 1% improvement in the selling price would generate an 8% increase in operating profits. Conversely, a 1% drop in the cost of goods sold would lead to a 5.36% increase in operating profits. This impact was more than double that of a 1% increase in sales volume[1]. For commodity businesses where operating margins are typically very low, hedging can have a much greater impact on profitability. Continue reading

Asset management, Commodity price, Commodity risk, Hedging, Risk management, trend following

Lessons in trend following: how we traded sugar

Sugar prices have soared on the CSCE (Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa exchange) from just over $0.10 per pound in August 2015 to over $0.23 at present – a fairly sharp jump by any standard, particularly after several years of continuously falling prices. I trade sugar using our trend-following model and to channel my inner Donald Trump – we’ve done tremendously well, generating a respectable grosss annualized return of nearly 10% per annum over a 5-year period. Now, the main reason I find this remarkable is that I know next to nothing about the fundamental economics of the sugar market. I know it goes into biscuits and beverages, that it comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, but that’s about it. Continue reading

Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity price, Commodity risk, Economics, Hedging, Market research, Market trends, Psychology, Risk management, trend following

Harnessing market trends to manage commodity price risk

On 24th September 2015, David Stein (M Sc., CFA, President and CEO of Aberdeen International[1]) wrote a compelling article analyzing the expected effect of last year’s VolksWagen emissions scandal on palladium and platinum markets that should be of great interest to commodity traders and industry. Continue reading