Sentiment towards commodities worst since 2009

Fund managers have turned negative on commodities for the first time in more than two years amid fears for the world economy - with some seeing falls in raw material prices as a key risk.

A poll of investment managers, looking after a total of $739bn, revealed that more were now underweight than overweight in commodities for the first time since February 2009.

The net underweight, of 7%, compared with an overweight stance of 4% last month.

The sell-down, which was mirrored in equities, reflected "weak" expectations for world economic growth, and in particular concerns of Greek sovereign debt default or a slowdown in China, where the property market is seen as a notable threat.

"It seems investors are waiting for the all clear from both Europe and emerging markets before committing cash," said Michael Hartnett, chief global equities strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch, which undertook the survey.

Out of favour 

The decreased sentiment towards commodities represents a sharp contrast to their popularity earlier in the year, with fund managers overweight in commodities outnumbering those in underweight by nearly 30% in February amid increased inflation fears.

Indeed, while some residual concerns over price rises in raw materials remain, some fund managers now view commodity price deflation as a top market risk, the survey revealed.

In agricultural commodities, regulatory data have already revealed a sharp fall in speculators' interest in the asset class.

Speculators have, at 47,700 contracts, their lowest net long position in grain futures and options since July last year, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission statistics.

Early last month, the net long figure stood above 675,000 lots.

Position limits 

Ironically, investors' waning interest in commodities comes as US regulators are limiting their ability to trade in the asset class, for fear that investments by banks and funds are distorting pricing.

The CFTC on Tuesday approved controversial constraints on fund positions in swaps and futures in commodities such as corn, soybeans and wheat to ensure that "markets do not become too concentrated".

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