RPT-Hedge funds take commodity bets back to month high from 1-yr low

Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:59pm GMT

(Repeats Friday story with no changes to headline or text)

* Rebound largely helped by new $4 billion net long in gold

* Corn, natural gas also see strong buying

By Barani Krishnan

March 22 (Reuters) - Hedge funds and other big speculators have taken their bullish bets on U.S. commodities back to a one-month high from a more than a one-year low, data showed on Friday, as they bought gold this week on fears of financial meltdown in Cyprus.

Reuters calculations of data from the Commodity Futures Trading Comission showed money managers, made up of hedge funds and other speculators, holding a net-long position of $65.2 billion across 22 commodities for the week to March 19.

That was the highest level for net-long managed money in those markets since the week ended March 19.

It also marked a turnaround from earlier in the month when the net long position fell to a Dec. 2011 low of $54.3 billion.

Much of the new hedge fund interest in commodities was in gold, which hit three-week highs earlier this week as funds turned to the precious metal as a safe-haven bet against potential calamity in Cyprus and the broader euro zone.

Corn also saw strong hedge fund buying on worries over short supply in the grain. Natural gas saw support on demand for heat driven by cold U.S weather.

CFTC data showed a net-long inflow of $4.4 billion in managed money during the week to March 19 for gold traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange's COMEX division.

Demand for gold soared after Cyprus faced a possible meltdown of its banking system and an exit from the euro this week unless it raised 5.8 billion euros demanded by the European Union to secure a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout.

The spot price of gold rose more than 1 percent this week, settling at above $1,607 an ounce on Friday.

"The lack of a bailout deal (for Cyprus) leaves us positive on gold for the short term," said James Steel, chief precious metals analyst at HSBC.

Corn traded on the Chicago Board of Trade saw a net long inflow of $2.1 billion in managed money.

Natural gas on NYMEX and the InterContinental Exchange saw a combined inflow of $2.4 billion in net long managed money. (Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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