It has been a tough year for Goldman's commodity team, which after a stellar 2021 and 2022, has seen its "supercycle" call crash and burn in a year where copper plunged, metals tumbled and oil dropped as low as the mid-60s. And with the bonus basket accruals for the full year looking rather dismal, the exodus - which started in March when the bank's closely followed commodity strategist Damien Courvalin quit to go to Balyasny as a chief commodities strategist - culminated earlier today when we learned that Goldman's iconic head of commodity strategy, Jeff Currie, whose mostly bullish pronouncements made him one of the bank's most visible talking heads, is leaving Goldman Sachs after three decades with the bank.
As Bloomberg notes, Currie - who had been the face of the Wall Street titan’s commodities research for nearly 30 years, "commanded attention in that market with a willingness to stick his neck out on calls, with mixed success."
Currie rose to fame after correctly predicting the China-driven boom of the 2000s and that decade’s surge in oil prices. He has had less luck repeating the feat after outlining reasons for another supercycle that could last a decade. Rather than a sustained increase, prices have gyrated.
“We have never been this wrong for this long without seeing evidence to change our views,” the 56-year-old told Bloomberg Television in June shortly before trimming his oil-price forecast (which still sees oil rising just shy of $100 by year-end).
As Bloomberg adds, over his 27 years at Goldman, Currie's standing in the market grew into a recognizable brand. The commodities unit leveraged that to drum up more business.
“He’s a little bit of a mad scientist,” said longtime Goldman colleague Colleen Foster, describing him as creative, eccentric and inventive. “There’s never a time I couldn’t get a meeting with a CEO, an oil minister or a hedge fund founder, if Jeff Currie was with me.”
After Currie caught the market’s attention with his correct call on oil’s surge to triple digits in the 2000s, his Goldman team infamously doubled down in May 2008. That was despite signs of trouble that spiraled into the financial crisis, sending oil crashing more than 75% in less than six months to below $35 a barrel. Still, he correctly predicted that oil would reach about $85 by the end of 2009, which it did.
He also had his bearish moments, such as in 2015, when he predicted oil would likely stay low for the next 15 years (less than a decade later it soared near record highs after the outbreak of the Ukraine war).
No matter his track record though, Currie’s fundamentally-driven and well-justified views were always closely followed in the market — including by company executives whose fortunes ride the ups and downs of commodity prices.His predictions sometimes fueled frustration, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lourenco Goncalves recalled in 2019.
“I have been critical of the Goldman Sachs commodity desk for years,” Goncalves said at the time. But after realizing they were finally in agreement on iron ore, “I was ready to give love to Jeff Currie. The first time in probably 10 years that the Goldman Sachs forecast for iron ore pretty much matched mine.”
An avid skier, Currie taught courses at the University of Chicago before joining Goldman in 1996. He and another top Goldman commodities executive were among a group that financed an effort to produce a 2010 documentary on the British rock band The Kinks.