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Goldman Calls Commodities Top: Is Now the Time to Sell?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The freefall in crude oil prices and energy stocks in the past two days is either the beginning of a major market correction that harkens back to 2008 or simply a convenient profit-taking moment for Goldman Sachs, its clients, and any investors who choose to join the Goldman bandwagon.

A Goldman Sachs "sell" call on commodities released late on Monday was the marquee headline in sending energy stocks and commodities into a tailspin, given the investment bank's history as a commodities trading bull.

The Goldman Sachs report released late on Monday announced that it was closing out its commodities basket trade.

"We are recommending closing the commodities position for a 25% return versus a 28% target," Goldman analysts wrote on Monday.

About oil specifically, Goldman's commodities call states, "Near-term crude oil price risk is becoming more symmetric. Although potential contagion risk in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains elevated and has pushed prices above $125/bbl, at these price levels the risks are becoming more symmetric, which shifts the risk/reward of being long oil. Not only are there now nascent signs of oil demand destruction in the United States ... but also record speculative length in the oil market, elections in Nigeria and a potential cease-fire in Libya that has begun to offset some of the upside risk owing to contagion, leaving price risk more neutral at current levels."

Market cynics argue that Goldman is simply booking profits in commodities now to provide itself and its clients with one more profitable entry point and that the long-term trend is still up and to the right. Notably, Goldman said in making its commodities call, "Although we believe that on a 12-month horizon the CCCP basket still has upside potential, in the near term risk-reward no longer favors being long the basket."

In the least, Goldman alluded to the speculation that drives oil trading in its recent outlook, with Goldman Sachs chief energy analyst David Greely writing to clients this week that oil prices weren't justified by supply/demand fundamentals.

"While prices are back at levels of spring 2008, supply-demand fundamentals are significantly less tight," the Goldman analyst wrote to clients. "We believe that the market will experience a substantial correction toward our $105 a barrel near-term target for Brent crude oil in coming months," the analyst predicts. Goldman is far from the first market source to state the opinion that oil prices are above fundamentals, with energy analysts and even OPEC ministers saying that current supply issues don't justify the extent of the oil prices rally.

The Goldman Sachs call, though, can also be viewed as one more headline "piling on" an already vulnerable rally in commodities, energy stocks and crude oil. Other major headlines pressuring the markets include:

  • A new report from the International Energy Agency on Tuesday citing high oil prices as a potential roadblock to further global growth.
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