At 360 Investment Research, we take a top-down, weight-of-evidence approach to markets. One key feature of this method is looking at relationships across asset classes to identify opportunities and manage risk. This intermarket analysis allows us to gain a big picture perspective of demand and supply in markets across the globe. After all, this is 2017, we have access to markets and investment vehicles our parents only dreamed of. With a click of a button, we can own commodities, currencies, sectors, industries, regional markets, you name it. Never before have individual investors had so much available to them for gaining investment knowledge, finding great investment opportunities, and the ability to take advantage of them at such a low cost. With the advent of ETFs, common investors can invest in pretty much whatever they want. Want to buy timber? Go for it. There’s an ETF for that (CUT). Is that ETF ticker not clever enough? Try WOOD. How about palladium? Got you covered (PALL). Want to invest in foreign markets like South Korea? Be my guest (EWY). Need it currency hedged. Got that too (HEWY). Do you really like coffee? Try JO. With sugar? Sure! (SGG). Before we get too carried away, investors also need to understand that ETFs are not a holy grail for accessing certain investment themes. In the words of investing legend, Peter Lynch, “Know what you own, and know why you own it.” The “why we own it” is easy: we’re here to make money. It’s the first part of the equation that can be a bit tricky. “Know what you own.” Investors need to understand that ETFs are notorious for tracking difference and tracking error. If you want to get into the minutiae, you can read up on those here. And since this article is focusing on a commodity, you should read this piece to understand the effects of contango and backwardation on commodity ETFs. Even with the aforementioned limitations, we can use ETFs to our advantage. Now, let’s dig into the main focus of this article, the secret key to unlocking Latin America: Copper
First, we need to acknowledge the weakness in Latin American stocks from April 2011 – January 2016. For five years, Latin America was a hot mess. Using the ETF for Latin America (ILF) as our proxy, we can witness this classic downtrend first hand.
While U.S. equities were rallying, Latin American equities were getting crushed. Not until early 2016, did the trend of lower highs and lower lows reverse into a series of higher highs and higher lows. Recently, demand has pushed Latin American prices to levels not seen since 2015. Not only did ILF breakout on an absolute basis, it accomplished the same on a relative basis to U.S. stocks. Take a look.
Since the beginning of 2016, Latin America via ILF has been outperforming the United States via SPY (proxy for S&P 500). This is an important development and as long as Latin America continues to make higher highs and higher lows above a 40-week simple moving average on both an absolute and relative basis, it makes sense to own Latin American stocks.
What does Copper have to do with all of this? Awesome question. There are 19,100,000 metric tonnes of Copper mined each year. Two of the top three, and four of the top 15, producers of Copper are within the Latin American region: Chile, Peru, Mexico, Brazil. Roughly 40% of the world’s Copper originates from the four aforementioned countries.  It would make sense that if the demand for Copper increased, it could bode well for these important players in LatAm. The opposite would also apply. Here’s the weekly chart of Copper using JJC, which tries to track the Bloomberg Copper Subindex Total Return. It’s not a perfect instrument, as we previously highlighted, but it’s good enough for our analysis here.
Look somewhat familiar? It should. The visualization of supply and demand (aka chart) looks very similar to that of Latin America. To make it easy on you, here’s the weekly chart of Copper placed directly over the same timeframe for Latin America.
It’s quickly apparent there is a strong relationship between the supply and demand for Copper and the supply and demand for Latin American Equities. They are not 100% correlated, but the tops and bottoms (aka changes in supply and demand) mirror each other. It’s not clear whether one asset class leads the other. At a minimum, however, they’re significantly coincident. Never discount coincidence. By studying the price of one, we can gather insight into the price of the other. If we’re long Latin American equities, it makes sense to pay close attention to Copper as well. And if Copper were to breakdown from its recent consolidation, it wouldn’t make much sense to have a long position in Latin American equities.
Since the large move in November of last year, Copper has been consolidating its gains. This can be productive. However, if Copper were to breakdown from this consolidation, the message of supply and demand would be clear. If selling pressure pushes Copper below the lower trendline (in green) or the major support near 28.50, Latin America would likely be in lockstep, dropping below 30 itself. Either of the aforementioned scenarios would likely mean even lower prices for both during the next few months.
Watch Copper carefully here. There’s no need to fight the tape. Higher prices in Copper likely mean higher prices in Latin American stocks. The opposite also applies. Make sure you’re on the right side of the trade.
As always, you can get real-time updates and commentary about this development and many more opportunities here: @360Research
AND, you’ve got FREE access to an investing tool we’ve created, The Ultimate ETF Cheat Sheet. It’s an easy-to-use resource guide.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell a security. You invest based on your own decisions. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in this blog. Please see our Disclosure page for full disclaimer.