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"Parabolic" commodities raise eyebrows Add to ...

The more commodities rise toward the heavens, the more skepticism emerges from anyone who distrusts the look of parabolic graphs. Bespoke Investment Group sounded a note of caution on Thursday with graphs of 10 different commodities, from oil and natural gas, to wheat and coffee - and they all look similar: Gentle rises as the fever line moves to the right, followed by a spike that looks out of control.

"Every single commodity is currently trading in extreme overbought territory except for orange juice," said Bespoke Investment Group, on its blog. "At some point, these commodities will see declines, and the more parabolic they get, the harder they will fall."

On Thursday, crude oil futures notched up yet another record high of $105.20 (U.S.) a barrel, up 68 cents, in midday trading in New York. Gold retreated to $976.49 an ounce, down $13.31.

Bart Melek, an economist at BMO Nesbitt burns, sounded a similar note of caution. Yes, the price of oil is rising partly because of tensions between Venezuela and Colombia and an unexpected decline in U.S. crude inventories. But there is speculation going on as well, as investors seek out hedges against the weak U.S. dollar and rising inflation - and speculation is a fickle driver.

"While it is quite possible that momentum will propel oil even higher in the short term, there is a real risk prices may correct sharply if supply/demand fundamentals turn sufficiently negative," Mr. Melek said in a note to clients.

"We are now approaching a period of slower seasonal demand for oil at a time markets are quite long crude. If supply starts outpacing demand by more than normal in the second quarter owing to slower demand (as the economy slows and higher prices bite into consumer ability to spend), investors may be spooked into liquidating their long positions and taking profits."

That could be bad news for oil, which could easily tumble $15 to $20 a barrel, Mr. Melek estimates. Then again, if the commodity spike continues, orange juice is looking like a screaming buy.  



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