Cocoa/Sugar Spread: Getting Off the Ride

The Bear Campaign

The IMC blog began a short-selling campaign in the cocoa/sugar spread at the end of September 2015.  The nearly one and a half year ride came to an end last week when the spread finally made a two-consecutive day close above the declining 100-day Moving Average, basis the nearest-futures.  This was the first such occurrence since late April of last year.

Due to ‘add-on’ positions after the trade was initiated, several rollovers, and a change in the spread ratio, the blog was short the May cocoa/sugar spread from the equivalents of +$21,514.80, +$18,158.60, +$14,949.20, and +$1,199.20.  The premium on all the spreads was to the cocoa contract value.

Cocoa Sugar spread daily (100-day MA)

Cocoa Sugar spread daily (100-day MA)

The exit price occurred at the March 14th close at +$240.80, which happened to be the first time this year that the value of the cocoa contract closed at a premium to the value of the sugar contract.

The Results Are In

Excluding commissions, the trade resulted in a total profit of +$54,858.60.  When you take into account the fact that the initial risk in the trade was $5,409.20 (based on the September 30, 2015 entry) the trade resulted in a ten-fold return.

Ironically, the initial risk when the trade was entered was more than double what I had anticipated.  The reason for that was because the spread reversed from a multi-year high to a two and a half month low in just five trading days.  If the volatility had not spiked via a big expansion in the trading range, the trade could have produced a return of at least 20-to-1.  But hey, we have no reason to complain when we still made a profit that was ten times the risk!

Staying On the Radar

Although the blog is no longer in the cocoa/sugar spread, it does not mean that we will forget about it.  As a matter of fact, we are watching (and hoping!) to see if the bullish trend change will fail and put the spread back on track for new lows.

So far, the contract low for the May cocoa/sugar spread was established on Valentine’s Day at a low of -$3,764.40 (premium sugar).  If we are lucky, the spread will return to this level and maybe even break below it.

May Cocoa Sugar spread daily

May Cocoa Sugar spread daily

Does that mean we are looking to reenter a short position?  Not exactly.  The blog aims to initiate a trade position after a spread has come off of an extreme reading where prior price excursions have proven rare and unsustainable.  Furthermore, it has to be in the direction of a trend that is in agreement with a historical reversion to the mean.  These requirements currently exclude a short sale on the cocoa/sugar spread.

Bears Breed…Bulls?!

The reason that we are hoping for a break to new lows is because it would put the cocoa/sugar spread on our candidate list for a potential trade on the long side.

Say what?!

Yep, you read that right.  We will be looking for a setup to go long on the spread.  Historically, bear markets in the cocoa/sugar spread have been near completion when the spread has declined below -$3,500 (premium sugar).

After a month end close below -$3,500 (premium sugar) on the nearest-futures monthly chart, the spread has usually bottomed out within a few months.  The longest it took was seven months when the spread closed below -$3,500 in June 1989 and hit the final closing low in January 1990.  Furthermore, the spread has never stayed below -$3,500 on a monthly closing-basis for more than a year.

Cocoa Sugar spread (nearest-futures) monthly

Cocoa Sugar spread (nearest-futures) monthly

Here’s the catch, though: although the cocoa/sugar spread closed below -$3,500 on the daily timeframe last month, it has not yet closed below -$3,500 on the nearest-futures monthly timeframe.  Last month’s close was -$2,107.60.  Therefore, the spread still hasn’t triggered our qualification for a trade candidate on the long side.

Even though we don’t currently see anything to do in the cocoa/sugar spread, now you know why we are continuing to at least monitor it.  I highly suggest you put this on your watch list as well.


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