Coffee – Broad View of Fundamentals Continues to Favor Call Sellers
2014 was a banner year for coffee prices as the market rallied off of Brazilian crop concerns right up through the critical “flowering” season in October.
But as timely rains finally arrived (just in time – as they usually do in Brazil) the market was forced to backtrack as projected crop damage ended up being much exaggerated.
We wrote an article for MarketWatch back in October of 2014 advising the possibility of this happening. (See http://www.marketwatch.com/story/despite-crop-fears-coffee-market-may-be-topping-2014-10-21.) which I recommend reading if you’d like some “back story” on this market.
This steady trend lower in prices made coffee an ideal market for call sellers for the past 6 months. The question becomes, is it still ideal for call sellers?
In our opinion, the answer to that question remains yes
September 2015 Coffee
For as coffee has shown technical signs of bottoming on the chart, fundamentals in the coffee market do not seem to support substantially higher prices anytime soon. To support this view, we present three key fundamentals that will affect coffee values for the next 3-5 months.
Bulls looking for a return to Coffee’s 2014 glory days will be disappointed this year. For despite the Brazilian drought, the country will begin harvest this month of what is expected to be a 45 million bag crop – certainly not a record but substantially higher than some had expected at the height of the weather scare.
In addition, a rainy summer in Brazil (December-March is summer in Brazil) has left coffee trees fully recovered from the 2014 drought.
Wolthers Douque USA, a Florida-based green coffee importer, reports Brazilian coffee trees “quite lush and strong” and “rejuvenated and ready to flower next October.”
Assuming Brazil returns to more normal weather patterns this year, the country could produce over 50 Million bags of coffee for next year’s crop.
As in most agricultural commodities, the two key fundamental figures one should analyze when forecasting prices are ending stocks and stocks to usage ratio (see chapter 14, The Complete Guide to Option Selling, 3rd Edition).
Despite 2014’s Brazilian crop reductions, global ending stocks for 2015 are projected to remain at historically healthy levels.
World Coffee Ending Stocks
At just over 35 million bags, 2015 projected global ending stocks would be similar to 2013 and 2007. If we look at price ranges for coffee during those years and assume no major weather disruptions, a clearer picture of “normal” price ranges for coffee this year emerges.
In 2007, coffee prices traded between 1.00 and 1.40 per pound. In 2013, prices gyrated between 1.01 and 1.58 per pound.
Given this year’s slightly lower stocks to usage vs. those years, OptionSellers.com projects 2015 (May –December) coffee prices to range between $1.65 and $1.05 per pound. That may not help futures traders much, but for option sellers, that should work just fine.
As we know from other agricultural markets, it is not uncommon for prices to make lows during or immediately following harvest as this is when supplies are highest.
September Coffee Seasonal
The Brazilian harvest traditionally begins in May and lasts for several months. A seasonal chart (above) confirms that this phenomenon tends to hold true for coffee prices as well. While coffee prices have already fallen to lower levels this spring (perhaps as a result of early harvest beginning in some growing regions in April), prices will battle harvest pressure for at least the next 60-90 days until cooler weather arrives in earnest later in July or August. This should help to cap upside rallies and could feed another leg lower should current support break.
Conclusion and Strategy
Coffee prices are currently oversold and could be due for a recovery bounce to the upside. However, with the 2014 weather scare over, adequate global ending stocks and Brazilian harvest ramping up into full swing this month, expect any rallies in coffee to be limited for at least the next 90 days – when the market begins to turn it’s focus to 2016.
In the meantime, 2014’s volatility is still reflected in coffee option prices. We’ll use any strength in coffee prices over the next 30 days as opportunities for selling call premium at strikes above 2014’s highs.
We like the September 2.30 call for premiums over $500 (see coffee chart on previous page). However, we could be expanding into a variety of strikes in this market, depending on price movement in the coming weeks.
We’ll be positioning client portfolios in this market over the next several weeks as opportunities present themselves.
James Cordier is author of McGraw-Hill’s The Complete Guide to Option Selling (3rd Edition, 2014). He is also founder and head trader at OptionSellers.com, an investment firm specializing exclusively in writing commodities options for high net worth investors. James’ market comments are published by several international financial publications and news services including The Wall Street Journal, Reuters World News, Forbes, Bloomberg Television News and CNBC. Michael Gross is co-author of The Complete Guide to Option Selling and director of research at OptionSellers.com.
If you would like information about managed option selling accounts directly with Mr.Cordier, Mr.Gross and OptionSellers.com, you may request a free investor information pack at www.OptionSellers.com/InfoPack. You may also request a complimentary consultation by calling 800-346-1949 (813-472-5760 from outside the US).
Price Chart Courtesy of CQG, Inc.
***The information in this article has been carefully compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but it’s accuracy is not guaranteed. Use it at your own risk. There is risk of loss in all trading. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Traders should read The Option Disclosure Statement before trading options and should understand the risks in option trading, including the fact that any time an option is sold, there is an unlimited risk of loss, and when an option is purchased, the entire premium is at risk. In addition, any time an option is purchased or sold, transaction costs including brokerage and exchange fees are at risk. No representation is made that any account is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those shown, or in any amount. An account may experience different results depending on factors such as timing of trades and account size. Before trading, one should be aware that with the potential for profits, there is also potential for losses, which may be very large. All opinions expressed are current opinions and are subject to change without notice.