Contango is when forward prices (3mo fwd) are higher than cash (spot) prices, i.e. the market is more confident of supply now than into the future. Backwardation is the reverse, when cash prices > fwd prices, i.e. markets are more worried about (prepared to pay more for) near term supply than future supply.
Last Friday, after Trump’s decision to tax / tariff all imports from China, markets appear to have capitulated in frustration, at trying to determine what direction the market(s) will move next. We have seen previously that when a base metal (Cu, Zn, Pb, Ni, Sn, Al) market cannot figure out the direction of the market, that the prices (cash & 3mo fwd) move to parity (cash = 3mo fwd). I cannot recall seeing all six base metals markets heading so close to parity as they have last Friday. Such convergence is very unusual.
For some further detail see this week’s commodity review Commodity Review – 02 August 2019 .