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« Oil Dances the Contango Around the Basis | Main | Bottom Fishing »

Friday, July 04, 2008


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Rogue Poster

Yelnick, sorry but this is not correct. Contango and Backwardation are tricky concepts. It took me a long time to wrap my head around them but I got an education fast owning USO. I learned the hard way what these two terms mean which is why I don't touch oil any more.

Backwardation occurs when the spot price of crude is ABOVE the futures price; Contango occurs when the spot price of crude is BELOW the futures price. In contango the carry costs are greater than the difference between the futures price and the spot price over time so your futures contract declines in value. In Backwardation the futures prices are rising in value. Backwardation is what's desireable for speculators not Contango.

So when you said: "We were in contango during the last fast oil rise, from late 2004 to early 2006; and then we flipped into backwardation and it corrected."

Just the opposite. We were in backwardation during late 2004 to early 2006; and then we flipped into contago and it corrected. I know because I, along with thousands of other USO investors, got absolutely crushed by CONTANGO during the latter half of 2006.


Rogue, I wasn't there, so I do not have first-hand knowledge, but my reading of comments and analysis in 2006 generally agree with the following:

"Since early 2005, the crude-oil market is in what traders call contango, meaning futures contracts for a given product are priced higher than that same good for near-term delivery. The price of oil to be delivered four months from now is about $3 more than oil to be delivered next month."

This PPT from BP also agrees, and gives charts with data across both one month out and six months out.

Perhaps where we can square your experience to the charts is that oil is quite volatile, and can flip in and out of contango, which makes trading difficult. I gather just a few months ago, in April, we were in backwardation, and have switched over to a rather steep contango. If we just stayed in backwardation, the trader could roll the contracts and take the positive spread (future is cheaper than spot). Normally when the flip into contango occurs, it means the spot price has dropped, and the trader can get caught.

BUT when excessive long positions push the contango curve to be steeply up, and increasing, the contango comes with both a higher spot price and a higher futures price. Then the roll makes profit, and the hedge spread is free money.

Over to you - love to hear your thoughts, which seem more informed than mine.

john walker


You wrote "we...have switched over to a rather steep contango."

What prices are you watching? NYMEX crude (ticker CLx where x=month) can be found here

The nearby months are in contango...but the distant months (every contract after Nov '09) are all in backwardation (priced below the current cash or spot contract).

Thus, the basis curve (like a yield curve) can be non-linear.

Further, there is a seasonality in demand (and prices), hence it is more useful to look at 1-year spreads (e.g. Aug '08 v Aug '09 etc); they are negative (backwardation).

IMVHO the current shape doesn't tell you much at all, but in any case "contango" it ain't.

here is a link to barron's cover story this week "the bear's back"
pretty bearishly written article relating to this cover story.
possible contrarian indication?



john walker, thanks for sharing the data. Please keep the info flowing. But help me with two points: first, your data says the oil markets are in contango out almost 17 months (albeit not very steep), and second, how do you react to this analysis by Dick Morris, which I find a very concise summary of the 'speculation' argument:

"Fadel Gheit, managing director of oil and gas research for Oppenheimer and Co., and Jim Norman, author of the book The Oil Card, coming out next month, say that speculation is responsible for a huge part of the run-up in prices.

"The growing demand for oil by India and China and the instability of oil supplies certainly account for much of the increase. But the recent spike, they say, is equally due to the weakness of the dollar and massive speculation.

"They argue that oil prices are, indeed, determined by supply and demand — not only the supply and demand for oil, but also the supply and demand for oil futures. (Oil futures are a commitment to buy 1,000 barrels of oil at a certain date at a certain price.)

"Formerly, most of the investments in oil futures came from energy companies. The federal Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sharply limited investments by those outside the business, to prevent precisely the kind of speculation now gripping the market.

"But when the stock market slowed down in 2000–2002, outside investors decided to speculate in oil futures.

"The new players were institutional investors like corporate and government pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, university endowments and other investors, guided by brokerage firms like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

"To avoid the CFTC caps, these investors moved their operations to London, setting up the International Commodities Exchange. Now they can buy all the oil futures they want.

"Michael W. Masters, of Masters Capital Management, told Congress that the volume of investment in commodities futures soared from $13 billion at the end of 2003 to $260 billion by March of 2008.

"After a while, the CFTC rescinded its limits on how much speculators could buy as long as they went through special “swap” desks at the major brokerage houses.

"You can buy oil futures for only 5 percent down on margin, a bargain considering the 50 percent margin requirement for stock market equity investments. Because the margin requirement on oil futures rises as the due date approaches, few investors actually end up buying the oil; they just roll over their investments.

"So the willingness of sellers to unload their oil futures, and of buyers to acquire them, sets up its own market of supply and demand that has more to do with determining the actual price of oil than even the global demand and supply for the product itself."

Rogue Poster

Yelnick, I had one bad experience as an oil investor so that hardly makes me an expert either. Anyway I did some searching on Google and found this article dated July 2nd. The author says RBOB contracts have only just come out of backwardation and are now in contango. He also explains the arcane lexicon more thoroughly.,%20the%20more%20nervous%20I%20get....html

Rogue Poster

Can just say something about Fadel Gheit for the record => He's clueless. That guy constantly gets trotted out as the world's leading oil expert, yet, he has been consistently wrong time and time again, and he's still wrong. You guys like to bash Bob Prechter, you should look into this guys track record! I remember back around March 2007 this guy was on CNBC talking about how oil was going back to $30 bbl. When asked why do you know what he said? "Because that's the price we've always paid for it." That was it! The sum total of his brilliant reasoning!

Now he's blaming speculators for the runup in oil prices, and said as much to Congress in the energy hearings a couple weeks ago. What a stupid thing to say. Anyone who buys a stock is by definition a "speculatior." Speculators provide liquidity to the market, and for every long there is a short, as you all know.

Listen to Gheit at your own risk. Personally, I think he's a total f***ing idiot.


do you see possibility of repeating a fractal from Nov 26, 07 to Jan 23,08 on SPX starting about now?


I cannot see how one could make money capitalizing on contango and "basis". Let's use a hypothetical example. Let's say, you have someone agree to pay you $160 for oil one year out. You know that storage, insurance etc. will cost you $10, and today's spot price is $140. You can sell the far out contract - and hedge it by buying spot oil. Sounds like guaranteed 10 bucks of profit per barrel.

Simple. However, such opportunities - in a liquid market - would get arbitraged away in a flash. Ultimately, in order to make money in futures trading one must be right on the price direction in the commodity. And cash price will depend on how much the buyers - refineries - are willing to pay for the oil. Good old supply and demand.

john walker

Yelnick: To take your questions in order:

(1) "...your data says the oil markets are in contango out almost 17 months (albeit not very steep)..."

Yes, but "not very steep" is the key; imvho there is no message in a virtually flat market. Contango has a limit ("full carry" = opportunity cost [interest rate * value of commodity] + storage costs); interest alone would put April '09 at +$5 over spot.

(2) " do you react to this analysis by Dick Morris, which I find a very concise summary of the 'speculation' argument..."

I'd say "yes, almost." There are a lot of factual errors in Gheit's comment, but I'd focus on the inappropriateness of using the term "speculator."

What the "Enron Loophole" did was to permit the entry of institutional investors (pension funds) into commodity indexes. They are (in terms of capital) the "800 lb gorilla", they are always long, and they do not buy on margin; further, they don't really care about price moves, since commodity exposure as an "asset class" is the goal. However, the same rules keep large hedge funds out of commodity markets, since they retain position limits, and generally don't trade indexes. So, "large players" enter on one side (long), and the shorts are "weak hands" by comparison.

There is, certainly, manipulation of inventory; that is an old story in internationally-traded commodities. However, it is not "new news", and imvho is not sufficient to account for the price spikes over the past year or so.


last thursday was new moon, so we have precious metals and grains acting just like they did off the solstice 'turn' thus far...crude oil saved the above last time, but today we have a good turn in the dollar and iran making conciliatory noises for a big change...weird wollie week!
SPX has 3 bullish days in almanac this week.. COMPX still on it's 'mid-year +10% historical' thru this week, let's see if the bulls can mount a run off the bottoming dollar/topping crude oil...jan. and july were the most impt. turn months for wd gann...recall the 7/3/1932 turn, the buy of the century...
rollin' rollin' rollin' down that river!


forgot to mention the big bad bear on barrons cover...
cuing up the byrds: turn! turn! turn!

Prechter says

Prechter says the latest bear Barrons cover is historically bullish and could spell trouble for the bears. EWI has shown Bear covers typically occur at important market bottoms.

I agree with Prechter, Socionomics shows a long history of bottoms coinciding with bears on magazine covers.

Take EWI's advice, look for a important bottom here.


Prechter says the latest bear Barrons cover is historically bullish

Dude, I bought that cover at Barrons to trick ya all :)
I'm wondering if some hedge fund can exploit this cover thing someday ;-))


The surge is about to begin!

Barrons 'Bear cover' will be the kiss of death to the bears.


A = C is SPX 1440-1445

1440-1445 is Elliott area to watch.


The surge has begun!



I think the C-wave of a flat or triangle began at today's low. Final decline is just around the corner.

Interested in Robert Prechter

An internet search for "Robert Prechter" turned up this site, among others. Could anyone tell me if they know much about Prechter or his "Wave Hypothesis"? I understand that he's done some fascinating work on Waves and is the only one to bring a scientific approach to the discipline. I love science, hardheaded reason and fact. If I can't be proven, I don't want to know about it. If it can't be quantified and analyzed, it's not for me. That's why I think this Prechter guy and I will be a good match. I'm looking to bring the same scientific, hardheaded, rational, reasoning approach to the stock market that has made me a success in other areas, such as technical computing, system analysis, and dynamical computing technology. Any advice anyone has would be much appreciated.

By the way, whom does Prechter pay to keep off the Forbes 400 list. He is the richest man in the world, right? I mean, he must be doing some trading for his own account. He can't have this goldmine and not use it. That would be nuts, right?


Jarhead:The surge is about to begin!

Nope, not a surge, definitelly not The surge. A bounce. somewhat big one.

Jarhead:Barrons 'Bear cover' will be the kiss of death to the bears.

Actually it will be "kiss goodbye" - we need to say bye-bye to that 1974 trendline of 34 years :)

Honest Abe

Could someone please discuss Robert Prechter of Elliott Wave International? I believe he and his team put together analysis based on Elliott Waves, which are the structured structures of mankind's natural progression from fear to greed and so forth as laid out by the unsung genius Ralph Elliott who developed the Wave Theory by carefully analyzing stock market patterns?

Thank you. Prechter, etc. EWI waves fibonacci, 1.618 beautiful elegant socionomics brillant predictions bear market crest of the tidal wave search engine keywords Gainesville $181


Arch Crawford "...we assess the possibility of a sharp counter-trend rally beginning in the immediate future as fairly substantial. But since our longer term indications are so terribly arranged, our suspicion lingers that such a rally may not last very long, although it may be steep."


Interestingly, the bottom in 1932 was 7/08/32. But I'm looking for the turn on a day that's more than a week and a half away. Nevertheless, the low forming now will be a MAJOR one, virtually 76 years from that of '32.


Upstart " the low forming now will be a MAJOR one"

Sorry I don't see it. It doesn't even getting close to similarity with Jan low or March low. Unless we do somethng crazy tomorrow - like C blows up ;-)

I think this low is not very important low at all


What does Prechter say about all this? I'd be very interested to hear what sort of Socionomic perspective his Wave "Elliottheory" has to provide regarding time frames, counter indicators, ABC waves, and Fibonacci lunar swingcycle oscillator patterns.

Prechter, please. And also Neelywave. He's good. And toss in a little Arch Crawford.

I'm ready to make some big bucks/secret of the universe stuff!

Thanks for the cool advice! Let's all get dirty, stinkin' RICH!!!!!!


Ulrich has posted before. He's a contra-indicator, that's all. A former subscriber crybaby who has the nerve to tell people that I suck just because my advice has sucked from '87 - present.


Elliott Rules!

please send $1618 to Prechter, Box 1618 Gainsville GA

and I wil send you my special "Sociorectographic Ecosystemic Elliottwave" vibrator which you can stick you know where to simulate/prepare for being screwed.

Tom CZ

It is really funny to hear how people trying to find a bottom when the trend down - I accept that on the break of some resists to the upside but not till then - as the market stayed overbought when in uptrend for a long time may stay oversold more than usually downtrend - I am just missing a panic (VIX above 35, put-calls etc) at least to make call mean cover short but not goinng long then but waiting for reselling on rally. I am staying long Bunds esp as the market was 17% bulls just about 2 weeks ago making nice reversal. B/W guys if you looking for really something trendy let you look to EUR/CZK ccy - the crown made 12% from the start of the year - thats another way how people deleveraging. We are near a bottom of the down channel so got out of short but may start interesting if we get through - next target then 21?


To "Interested in Prechter"

Look in the previous 4 or 5 threads for many posts on how ex-subscribers feel about Prechter’s market forecasting ability.

Elliott waves is a science of probabilities showing how people tend to behave with respect to whatever graphed statistical data you are observing.

Prechter has written many books theorizing and attempting to predict market behavior and he did in fact call a bull market a year before it started in 1985. I was always under the impression that he also called the crash of 1987 until one of his old subscribers enlightened everyone on this website (2 to 4 threads back) on how it really happened. It seems that Prechter called the crash after stocks had already gapped down the day of the crash so his subscribers got hit hard anyway.

Prechter has been continuously bearish since 1987 and by his own admission in several of his “Theorist” publications has been ineffective since 1987. Needless to say he missed out on one helluva ride from 1987 to 2000 and again from 2003 to 2007

I myself have found his “Short term update” market calls poor in accuracy, relevancy and especially timing. Even in 2001 when there was a prolonged downtrend, which agreed with their perma-bear outlook, it was difficult to make any serious money. The writer of the Short term update was always lacking in conviction and hedging his calls. He can also be counted on to miss any sustained uptrend; the rally of the last quarter in 2001 was missed as well as the sustained rally of 2003 through 2007.

I have had success using e-waves on my own and have also seen other Ellioticians give some good calls using Elliott. I think E-waves are a viable tool but Prechter is arguably the worst at using them to benefit others. If you’re going to use this tool I would steer clear of EWI. Anywhere else you go would probably give you better results. I lost a lot of money while a subscriber but was fortunate enough to make it all back over a 3 year period after I unplugged from their work.

Many Ellioticians are correctly bullish then bearish a high percentage of the time. EWI’s reporting on domestic equity markets is pretty much bearish all the time and so mostly wrong. That degree of incorrect bias is now a red flag to me and I recognize it as a deep-rooted trait that hinders the correct application of Elliott. To stand a chance of letting Elliott work, one must be able to look at all data pertinent without prejudice or bias, not only the data that happens to fit one’s bias. This, I know, is easier to say than do but Prechter manages to get it wrong 9 out of 10 times (by my account), so what can be concluded?


Socionomically interesting to note the anti-Prechter commentary in here - yet another sign of the bear entering wave 3?



When we had an a-b-c from 10/07 to 1/07(DOW) or to 3/07(S&P) many (including me) proclaimed it the low of the year. Now that we have a much larger 3-wave move from October, which I believe will bottom in < 2 weeks, why is this not more likely a major low? I can tell that people think that the larger decline means it will keep going and going, but isn't that the opposite of what is likely?



You can find quite a few election years that are weak to mid-year before the rally begins.


So... if you want a new bull market to start, just put a bearish front cover on a major magazine and everything will change for the better. You guys are miracle workers. All the credit problems...gone. Employment problems...gone. Somebody call Ben and have him put bear articles in every major magazine and newspaper in the nation. The most important magazine that this brilliant nation of ours needs to see a bearish article is in the "Star". Found at every checkout counter in America, this highly intelligent magazine would kill the bear market with a bearish front cover, I have no doubt. Maybe the cover could show a bear threatening to eat Brad and Ange's kids!!!!!
We are saved from doom. Now go out and buy some Chinese crap!

Lucas Man

Lucas number (9) is 76.

Today is 76 Lucas years from Great Depression Low Anniversary of 1932 amd 76 Lucas Moons from the May 2002 top.

Barrons Bear Cover hit exactly on this Lucas 76 event. Always study Lucas numbers in addition to Fibonacci numbers for changes in trend.

Batle of Trafalgar

Barrons Bear cover calling the exact low so far that many have posted about, will be interesting to see if it holds.

business, chart, close-up, closeup, computer, diagram, economy, graph, graph, high-tech, market, screen shot, screenshot, stock market, system, technology, trade, trading, value, Bid-Ask Spread, Bondholder Value, Book Value Bias of Long-Term Debt, Business Performance, Capital Budgeting, Capital Market Development, Capital Structure, Credit Ratings, Contingent Earnouts, Cost of Capital, Currency Translation, Derivatives, Dismissal Risk, Dividend Policy, Earnings Management, Equity and Bond Markets, Exchange Rates, Exchange Risk Pricing, Finance as an “Ownership Advantage”, Financial and Industrial Structure, Financial Contracting, Financial Management, Financial Markets, Financial Risk Assessment, Financing Procedures, Firm Exposure, Foreign Exchange Management and Risk, Foreign Portfolio Investment, Global vs. Multinational Capital Allocation, Hedging Strategies, Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), Inside Ownership, Institutional Domestic and Foreign Investors, Insurance, Intangible Assets, International Asset Pricing, International Cross-Listing, International Financial Integration, Investment Incentives, Investor’s Valuation, Joint Venture Sell-Off, Market Value, Mortgage Backed, Securities, Mutual Funds, Private Equity and Portfolio Diversification, Privatization, Project Finance, Profitability, Return on Assets (ROA), Risk and Risk Exposure, Securities Litigation, Shareholder Lawsuits, Shareholder Value, Speculation and Arbitrage, Sovereign Bonds / Sovereign Debt, Stock Market Manipulation, Stock Market Valuation, Stock Market Volatility, Stock Prices, Unconditional Asset Pricing Models, Venture Capital, Working Capital

Batle of Trafalgar

Here is the July 2002 Business Week Magazine cover which marked the bear market lows....


Upstart, I watch cycles as well.
yes we will start short term rally late 10th or early 11th
By Options expiration we should be done
I expect 700 Dow points gain and downtrent should resume

MHD "Now go out and buy some Chinese crap!"
Actually not a bad idea. HSI could jump 15%+



I was a skeptical EWI subscriber in 2004 and there was a lot of Prechter hate mail being received in the last quarter of 2004 whenr the markets rallied after correcting through most of that year.

Back then EWI actually had the courage to post some of the non complimentary comments not just the inane crap one sees today.

Anyway, more than once your observation was offered up several times in 2004 by EWI message board writers as Socionomical evidence that wave three would soon be on us with a vengence.

Socionomics I feel has many merits but it is tainted by what Prechter chooses to look at. To me the man is seriously flawed so socionomics suffers by association.

I'm glad I did not buy into their late 2004 justifications because that period marked the start of me recouping 100% of the heavy losses incurred by attempting to make their seriously flawed logic work.

Socionomics was wrong in 2003 (they did something similar that year also) and in 2004. Maybe people are just not happy with Prechter because of his "best in class" wrong market calls? How closely have you followed his work over the past 20 years? Have you ever tried to use his calls to improve your investment results? How did that work out for you?

In my business experience people usually express their anger toward someone when they don't get what they paid for no matter what wave is coming up.

Dr. Alan Fu

Min, et al:

Socionomics is not "tainted" by anything. It is pure and true, like physics, biochemistry, and computer science. It is not open to human conjecture or bias or misapprehension. It is one of the immutable, natural laws of the universe, provable by simple mathematics and moving in precise, mathematically, scientifically elegant fashion.

Socionomics is the immutable, natural law of man's behavior as elucidated by the genius of one man who had the bravery and wisdom to give words to it. There was darkness and then Prechter did something strange and wonderful and miraculous: He turned on the light!

I would appreciate it if some of the ignoramuses on this website would leave their anti-information at home. You wouldn't dare make fun of the work of Einstein or Newton, would you? Save your pathetic jabs at Prechter for the garbage heap.

For those seriously interested in Socionomics, I recommend the Elliott Wave website: It lays out, in elegant, irrefutable proof, the majestic laws of the Universe. I also recommend a subscription to the many clear, easy-to-understand publications that make the Natural Laws of Science available through Hochberg, Kendall, and the man who cracked it all: Robert Prechter, Jr. If you have an open mind and a keen, unforgiving sense of reason and contempt for bs, you will be IN AWE.


Looks like Dr. Fu drank the Kool Aid.

Dr. Alan Fu

To hell with you, Harry!

What, are you going to make fun of the internal combustion engine in your car?? The X-Rays that saved your life??? The cathode ray tubes and medicines and air conditioning and everything we have Science to thank for???



- Latest from Investors Intelligence -

The advisors continued to run for the hills as market averages moved lower to break important support levels. The bulls fell to 27.4% from 31.9% last week and 44.8% at the end of May. To find a more pessimistic reading, you have to go all the way back to early July 1994 when the bulls were below 25%.

The bears advanced to 47.3% from 44.7% a week ago. Their number was below 30% in May but we currently see their highest reading since September 1998 where one week it achieved 47.5%.

The difference between the bulls and bears improved to -19.9%, from -12.8% a week ago. Those readings are even better than those shown at the March low when the spread was -13.8%. The current run of negative differences has also exceeded the streak of negative spreads from October 2002. These levels show a major contraction from the very negative 42.4% spread that occurred with the early October 2007 index high.


I'm only seven but even I understand that Prechter used Science to give birth to the beautiful, true, elegant, irrefutable, natural truths of Sociomanomics.

It's sort of like a mixtrue of Sociology and Nomics and Economy... you know, Socionomy sort of thing. It's scientific, it's a subject, and your kids are going to learn it in school just like you learned about physics.


Dr. Alan Fu

Bobby's right. Thank you, Bobby. I like your name. It reminds me of... oh... I don't know... maybe the Modern Day God of Science and Rigorous Learning Knowledge...


By the way, it's okay to masturbate to Prechter and not be gay. So whip out the Elliott Wave Theory Newsletter and the mineral oil and rub out a few waves with abandon, gents.


Investors Intelligence report is most bullish report in 14 years.

Highest pessimism since 1994 tells me a new Bull market is about to emerge and all the negative nellies will have to wait several more years for their glorious bear market.


Investors Intelligence just threw a pipe wrench into the bears bicycle spokes.


With Investors Intelligence numbers like these, the surge could be only weeks away.


This is amazing the stock market is declining and Robert Prechter is more hated then ever!! Maybe he has a point about the social mood thing he is always ranting about. Anyway, just buy long term treasuries!!! there are still idiots out there who think the long term treasury interest rate is going to rise!! :)


30 treasury rate is headed well below 3%!!!!!!


viktor:"the surge could be only weeks away."
by that time the options will expire ;-))

cstradingman:"30 treasury rate is headed well below 3%!!!!!!"
Good! I will refi/cash out my mortgage at 3% ;-))

Yes, Lenin 70 years before Prechter told people the same thing. I think it was called COMMUNISM. Somehow they skipped "Sustainability Law 101" course

Dr. Alan Fu


You are wrong. Prechter and communism are very different things. Prechter's work is scientifically proven. Communism is just a sort of faddish pseudoscience.

Wave IV or C of a zigzag STRAIGHT AHEAD. Look out! Fibonacci numbers abound!!!!!!

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