Why I’m Still Short Miners (And You Should Be Too)

Right now, the industrial commodities complex (along with the Dow and the S&P 500) seems to be recovering.

The key word there is “seems.”

BHP Billiton (BHP) has recovered 33% since January lows, Glencore is up 112%, and GSG and DBC, the broad-based commodity indexes I track, are up about 17% and 13% respectively since then. Iron ore, copper, aluminum, coal and (of course) oil are all riding the crest of this infernal “bear market rally.”

This is unlikely to last.

I’m still bearish on the commodities complex, and with good reason. Today I thought it would be worthwhile to check in on a few of the short mining plays I recommended last year and put their “improved” status into perspective.

Spoiler alert: You’ll want to buy puts on these…

Commodity Prices Still Hinge on These Two Factors

Commodity markets are not driven by the vagaries of metals prices, but by dollar strength. As the dollar goes, so goes oil. As oil goes, so go the commodity markets.

The most recent Absolute Return Letter from London argued persuasively that commodity prices are falling not just because of weakness in China but because of U.S. dollar strength. Oil accounts for 31% of the Bloomberg Commodity Index, which has fallen steadily since 2011. But oil prices only joined the carnage in 2014, when the dollar began its sharp rally.

While it is important to pay attention to supply and demand, which is still far out of balance in all commodities markets around the world, the dollar will continue to play a dominant role in any price recovery. Eventually supply and demand will impact prices, but markets are far from that point.

As long as the dollar remains strong, there is little prospect that the global economy can resume robust growth. The DXY is currently trading above 96. A strong dollar will cap oil and other commodity prices, pressure S&P 500 earnings, make it difficult for emerging markets to service and repay their dollar-denominated debts, and act as a deflationary wet-blanket on the global economy.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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