Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fascinating Market Correlations You'll Want to Use

Experienced futures traders know there are many correlations among futures markets - some of which are valuable guides in helping to determine specific market trends, and some of which are fickle. This educational feature will examine some basic correlations among futures markets, and will likely be most beneficial to the less-experienced traders. However, it just might be a good refresher for the experienced traders who may have forgotten a few of the market correlations.

It is important to emphasize that market correlations are never 100% predictable, and that some market correlations can and do make 180-degree turns over a period of time.

U.S. Dollar-Gold: The gold market and the dollar usually trade in an inverse relationship. This has been the case for many years. During times of U.S. economic prosperity and lower inflation, the dollar will usually benefit as money flows into U.S. paper assets (stocks and bonds), while physical assets (gold) are usually less attractive. Conversely, during times of weaker U.S. economic growth, higher inflation or heightened world economic or political uncertainty, traders and investors will tend to flock out of "paper" assets and into "hard" assets such as gold. Inflation is a bullish phenomenon for gold.

U.S. Dollar-U.S. Treasury Bonds: Usually, a stronger dollar means a stronger bond market because of good demand for U.S. dollars (from overseas investors) to buy U.S. T-Bonds. T-Bonds are also seen as a "flight-to-quality" asset during times of economic or political instability. In the past, the U.S. dollar has also benefited from "flight-to-quality" asset moves. However, since the major terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the resulting damage to the U.S. economy, the safe-haven status of the "greenback" has been much less pronounced.

Crude Oil-U.S. Treasury Bonds: If crude oil prices rally strongly, that is a negative for U.S. T-Bond prices, due to notions that inflationary pressures could reignite and become problematic for the economy. Inflation is the arch enemy of the bond market. Rising crude oil prices are also bullish for the gold market.

CRB-U.S. Treasury Bonds: The CRB Index is a basket of commodities melded into one composite price. A rising CRB index means generally rising commodities prices, and increasing inflation. Thus, a rising CRB Index is negative for U.S. Treasury Bond prices.

U.S. Stock Indexes-U.S. Treasury Bonds: Since the bull market in U.S. stocks ended just over two years ago, stock index futures prices and U.S. Treasury bond futures prices have traded in an inverse relationship. When stock prices are up, bond prices are usually down. However, during the long bull market run that preceded the current bear market, stock and bond prices traded in tandem. In fact, years ago, before all the electronic overnight futures trading had begun, the best way to get a good read on how the stock indexes would open was by early trading in the T-bond market. (T-Bond trading opens 70 minutes before the stock indexes).

Silver-Soybeans: This corollary may be more fiction than fact, at least nowadays. But during the "go-go" days of soaring precious metals and soybean prices, it was said that if soybean futures would lock limit-up, bean traders would buy silver futures.

Cattle-Hogs: The point to mention here is that if strong price gains or losses occur in one meat futures complex, there is likely to be somewhat of a spillover effect in the other meat complex. For example, sharp losses in the cattle or feeder cattle futures will likely weigh on the hogs and pork bellies.

Currency Futures-U.S. Dollar Index: Most major IMM currency futures contracts are "crossed" against the U.S. dollar. Thus, when the majority of the currencies are trading higher, it's very likely that the U.S. Dollar Index will be trading lower. It's a good idea for currency traders to keep a watchful eye on the U.S. Dollar Index, as it's the best barometer for the overall health of the U.S. dollar versus major foreign currencies.

U.S. Stock Indexes-Lumber: Lumber is a very important commodity for the U.S. economy. It is literally a building block for the nation. If the stock market is sharply higher, lumber futures prices will be supported. A big sell off in the stock market will likely find selling pressure on lumber futures.

N.Y. Cocoa-British Pound: London cocoa futures trading is as important (or even more important) than New York cocoa futures trading, on a worldwide basis. London cocoa futures trading is conducted in the British pound currency. Thus, big fluctuations in the pound sterling will impact the price of U.S. cocoa futures, due to the cross-currency fluctuations of the British pound versus the U.S. dollar. Keep in mind there is constantly arbitrage taking place between the New York and London cocoa markets, and thus the currency cross-rates between the pound and the dollar are very important.

Grains-U.S. Dollar Index: A weaker U.S. dollar will be an underlying positive for the U.S. grain futures markets because it makes U.S. grain exports more competitive (cheaper prices) on the world market. Larger-degree trends in the U.S. dollar will have a larger-degree impact on the grains.

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