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Hedge funds buying gold but breakout remains elusive

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(Kitco News) - Hedge funds added to their bullish gold and silver bets last week, but some analysts note that the latest trading data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) doesn't signal a major breakout from the current trading channel.

The CFTC's disaggregated Commitments of Traders report for the week ending May 19 showed money managers increased their speculative gross long positions in Comex gold futures by 9,946 contracts to 153,961. At the same time, short bets rose by 5,099 contracts to 26,897. Gold's net-long positioning currently stands at 127,064 contracts, up nearly 4% compared to the previous week.

During the survey period, gold prices rallied to a 7.5-year high; however, the gains were short-lived and the market was hit with some profit-taking as investor sentiment improved in equity markets.

Commodity analysts at Commerzbank said that the current level of net longs in the marketplace does not point to sustainably higher prices.

"Admittedly, speculative net long positions were expanded again in the last reporting week for the first time since mid-April. That said, at just shy of 5,000 contracts, the increase in positions was comparatively moderate, considering that the gold price had reached its 7.5-year high towards the end of the reporting week. Moreover, at 127,000 contracts, net long positions are still only marginally above an eleven-month low. The price rise was hardly driven by speculation, in other words," the analysts said.

Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, also noted that bullish speculative sentiment is only slightly above its recent 11-month high. He added that this positioning in the marketplace is noticeable, given the positive fundamental environment for gold.

Hansen added that gold investors continue to play the precious metal through the ETF market.

Commodity analysts at TD Securities noted that an environment of growing fiscal and monetary stimulus and weakness in the U.S. dollar will continue to support gold prices in the long-term, even though there are short-term issues investors need to be aware of.

"While net positioning tilted convincingly towards the longs, some money managers did take considerable short bets amid concerns that there are both technical and fundamental barriers preventing a breakout higher," the analysts said.

Although hedge funds appear to be only lukewarm on gold, the silver market is heating up.

The disaggregated report showed money-managed speculative gross long positions in Comex silver futures rose by 8,442 contracts to 37,565. At the same time, short positions increased by 919 contracts to 16,099.

Silver's net length currently stands at 21,466 contracts, up more than 50% from the previous week. Analysts noted that speculative interest is at its highest level in two months.

During the survey period, silver prices pushed above $18 an ounce, reaching its highest level since February.

Analysts at TD Securities said they could see silver prices continue to move higher.

"We estimate that as prices began to firm, silver further benefited from a large scale algorithmic buying program, as CTAs covered their shorts and added longs. We further speculate that the resulting price action could reinvigorate speculative interest, which has struggled to gather steam of late," the analysts said.

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