With interest rates hovering near 0% for several years now, debt has been incredibly cheap and easy to obtain. The hope was that investors would pour that cash back into job-creating businesses. But many traders chose instead to buy commodities futures and short sell the dollar -- and it's pretty easy to see why.
Commodities contracts are purchased with a combination of traders' own capital and borrowed money -- CME Group, which owns Comex and Nymex, regulates the margin between them. So long as prices continue trending upwards, it's better to finance more and use less personal cash.
And with traders required to put only 6% of their own money down as recently as March, that's exactly what they did.
The problem is, all this borrowing pushes prices far above their fair market value, creating a commodities bubble -- and sooner or later, that bubble has to pop.
As gas prices started hitting the $4 mark nationwide, CME began increasing margin requirements, announcing an additional two this past Wednesday -- by May 9, traders will only be able to borrow 78%, down from 94% just a couple of months back.
With buyers now required to front a good deal more of their own cash, don't be surprised if the commodities market becomes a lot more volatile. Oil has already come down a whopping 8.5%, and silver took a 25% nosedive, while the dollar saw a sharp rebound.
As prices fall, traders may be scrambling to sell their contracts in order to pay back their loans.
So what sort of fallout can we expect? On one hand, the global economy could actually see a positive impact, as declining prices leave more cash in consumers' pockets to spend on other thing. But investors who bet on the commodities bubble are sure to suffer, as are economies dependent on their export business.
So, which companies stand to gain from the commodity crash?
To help you find ideas, we went back in time, and identified a list of about 400 companies that outperformed the S&P 500 during the most recent commodity bubble crash, which occurred between June 2008-February 2009.
We narrowed down the list of outperforming companies by only focusing on those companies that have seen significant insider buying over the last six months.
History suggests that these companies do well during times of commodity crashes, and insiders seem to think these companies hold significant potential -- do you agree? (To access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas, click here.)
List sorted by the relative size of insider buying over the last six months. (Note: All price changes referenced occur between June 1, 2008-February 1, 2009).
2. Auxilium Pharmaceuticals
3. ITT Educational Services
4. Western Gas Partners
6. Questcor Pharmaceuticals
7. First Financial Bankshares
8. Collective Brands
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research. Note: The numbers on top of items represent the forward P/E ratio, if available.
Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen does not own shares of any companies mentioned.
Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.