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OPEC in Crisis & offshore rebound
Rystad Energy is taking a bearish view of the offshore segment going forward. It expects that, once investment rebounds, fully half of next year’s forecast oil & gas spending will be on offshore production and storage.
Chinese shipyards are bracing for vessel fabrication requests, Rystad reports. A rise in new orders for floating production, storage, and offloading vessels beginning in 2021 is expected.
What does this mean for oil prices? Banks are split on their predictions.
In the short term, however, OPEC appears to be on the cusp of a crisis.
The IMF has predicted a 4.5% economic contraction for the Middle East and Central Asia this quarter. This is bad news, as these regions are the busiest for hydrocarbons in the world, and home to leading OPEC members.
A GDP contraction would keep oil prices between $40-50 per barrel into 2021.
There is also overproduction. Currently, OPEC output is at 7.7m b/pd. OPEC members will be meeting to discuss production cuts in late October 2020. 5.6m b/pd is the goal.
It is hoped that would stabilise prices, but it’s yet to be established if oil demand will rise again soon.
The natural gas outlook is, as ever, tied in with US weather.
Last week’s natural gas report showed inventories rose by less than expected but prices slid into the weekend as they remain tied to weather forecasts and wavering LNG export demand.
An early-season cold snap is sweeping through the Midwest although, from Monday, demand is to slip as temperatures warm up.
US oil begins supply fightback after Hurricane Delta passes through key regions
Hurricane Delta’s impact on US oil output continues.
Much of the US’ on and offshore production and refining capability lies in the hurricane’s path.
Prior to Delta’s landfall on October 8th, 90% of offshore production was closed. 800,000 of 2.4 million b/pd refinery capacity was shuttered too.
The focus is now on reopening such facilities, alongside maritime export hubs along the Texas-Louisiana border.
Slipping European demand for US crude
Even as export ports come back online, they may have to find new final destinations.
While China remains an enthusiastic buyer of US crude, Europe is less enthusiastic.
S&P Global Platts analysis suggests that European consumers are turning away from US-grades, preferring more locally sourced oil.
On October 2nd, US exports had slipped to 2.66 million b/pd, according to the US Energy Information Administration. As well as slowing European demand, falling yields on overseas fields are forecast to provoke further export slippage.
Norwegian & Libyan production blockages overcome
Price concerns have also been raised following on from developments in Norway and Libya.
On the Norwegian front, a successful conclusion of a production-disrupting strike has resulted in the reopening of its largest oil field once again. This brings 8% of Norwegian output back online.
Meanwhile, Libya is pushing ahead at production at Sahara, the nation’s largest oilfield.
Despite this, the current outlook for US oil stocks is bullish, holding at around $40.20 – $40.35 per barrel as of lunchtime October 13th.
US EIA Crude Oil Inventories preview: Oil eases back with OPEC+ in focus today
Oil prices were a tad softer Wednesday having struck 5-month highs in the previous session with traders looking ahead to today’s EIA inventories, which are complicated by the OPEC+ meeting also taking place. Prices remain supported by ongoing optimism about the economic recovery with equity markets striking fresh record highs on Wall Street.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a draw in crude oil inventories of –4.264 million barrels last week, which beat expectations for a fall of –2.67m barrels. Market participants today expect the EIA to show a draw of –2.9m barrels, a smaller drop than last week’s -4.5m.
Today’s inventory figures come on the same day as the OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, which is set to reaffirm the 7.7m bpd cuts.
It follows OPEC’s latest monthly report, published last week, which indicated the cartel will continue with production cuts for longer. OPEC lowered its 2020 world oil demand forecast, forecasting a drop of 9.06m bpd compared to a drop of 8.95m bpd in the previous monthly report. But the report also sought to calm fears that OPEC+ will be too quick to ramp up production again. Specifically, OPEC said its H2 2020 outlook points to the need for continued efforts to support the market.
European shares stutter after Wall Street’s all time high
US stocks closed at record highs but European stocks remain a lot more subdued, with the FTSE 100 struggling at the open today after suffering a sharp reversal in the latter part of the session yesterday. Bulls did try to wrestle control from bears in the first hour of trading, but it looks like it will be another volatile day and a lot will depend on how Wall Street performs in the first hour or two of the NY session. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats could be willing to agree to a scaled-down stimulus package, which has helped soothe risk muscles. Asian shares were mixed and US futures are flat.
Whilst the S&P 500 notched record intra-day and closing highs, the FTSE 100 is tracking close to the lower end of the June range and is –20% YTD. Sterling’s strength has not helped but European equity markets just haven’t matched expectations. The DAX has done better but remains some way off its highs. While we focus on the broad market in the US, the fact is it has been driven largely by a rather narrow group of stocks and the rest of the market has not enjoyed the same bounce. Tech is up 50% for the last 12 months, whilst Energy is down 30 per cent.
The question is whether this is early cycle or the death throes of the last bull market. Either you read this as a sign that the market could go a lot higher as we enter a cyclical bull market with lots of cash sitting on the side lines still to pour into value, or you worry that this is a Fed-fuelled tech bubble with forward earnings multiples looking enormously stretched at around 25x on a forward basis. I would be concerned that volatility will increase as we head into the autumn with the election looming and there is at least a chance of a technical pullback for the S&P 500. And how much more stimulus can you throw at this? The Fed has killed the bond market and lifted the boats – but how much more can it do? If the market tests the Fed again, what is left in the tank?
For the FTSE 100, the near-term downtrend is starting to approach important support levels.
USD can’t catch bid
In FX trading, the US dollar was offered yesterday and was the chief driver of the market, sending the euro to its highest versus the greenback in more than two years. The break above 1.19 for EURUSD leaves bulls in control after two previous attempts failed. EURUSD eased back from these highs today but remains supported above 1.19 with bulls eyeing a recapture of the May 2018 swing high at 1.20.
GBPUSD was a little softer this morning after shooting clear of the 1.32 level yesterday to hit its best level since the election last December. The move clears important technical resistance of the long-term downtrend and opens a path back to 1.35, last year’s peak, with the golden cross (50-day SMA rising through the 200-day SMA) considered a bullish confirmation of the rally. Near term the higher-than-anticipated CPI inflation reading this morning has not been able to lift the pound, although it ought to help quell immediate speculation the Bank of England will resort to negative rates.
Meanwhile the pound remains exposed to significant headline risks this week. Brexit talks have not gotten off to the best start as the EU rejected British proposals for truckers’ access to the continent. I would anticipate that the longer this drags the more we see pressure come back on GBP. FOMC minutes tonight will be watched for any signs the Fed feels the need to lean even harder on rates. For now the dollar can’t seem to catch a bid with the dollar index now barely holding the 92 handle and the last line of defence before a return to the 80s sitting at 91.60 (the 78.6% retrace of the two-year uptrend) now firmly in view.
Oil prices slip ahead of OPEC+ meeting
Crude prices were a little lower this morning ahead of an OPEC+ meeting to review after touching a 5-month high yesterday on improving risk sentiment as US equities rose, whilst the softer dollar is offering ongoing support to commodity markets.
OPEC and allies are likely to stick with 7.7m bpd supply cut – what we don’t know is whether the demand side really picks up into the back end of the year. On that front a lot will depend on the containment and control of the virus in Europe – rising cases raises real risk that hamstrung governments simply revert to a wide lockdown and restrict movement again. Airlines and travel stocks will face a tough time.
Gold was softer after breaking back above $2k in yesterday’s volatile session. Near-term support appears to rest on the 23.6% retracement around $1980. Whilst bulls are still just about in control, their momentum is not what it was and we would prefer to see the next swing clear $2015 for the bullish trend to be fully reasserted. A further corrective move lower should still be considered a real possibility.
EIA oil preview: API signals huge build
Oil broke out to finally close the gap to the March 6th level. WTI (Aug) rose above $42 but pared gains on an unexpectedly large build in US crude stockpiles. Crude inventories rose by 7.5m barrels last week, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
The Energy Information Administration is forecast to report a draw of 2.1m barrels when it releases its weekly report later today. If the EIA confirms the API numbers it would be the biggest build in inventories since late May. There is a risk that there is a greater and faster build-up in inventories as states have rolled back some lockdown restrictions and demand may not have picked up as quickly as anticipated. Jobless claims figures indicate far fewer trips made for work, whilst air passenger numbers continue to lag last year despite a pickup in the US. Rising coronavirus case numbers continue to weigh on trader sentiment, albeit OPEC+ production curbs continue to act as a rising balloon for prices.
Vaccine hopes have helped fuel oil prices to rally to their best level since March but at the same time traders as cautious about getting too optimistic when there is so much uncertainty not only over demand, but also supply given the propensity for US shale production to restart as prices move higher.
Oil leads global market tumble on ‘Black Monday’
The collapse of OPEC+ talks over the weekend tipped markets into chaos on Monday. Traders, already on edge due to the unfolding coronavirus epidemic, were sent fleeing to safety after Saudi Arabia slashed its crude oil prices.
Crude and Brent tumbled over 30%, their worst daily performance since the Gulf War, hitting lows below $27.50 and $31.50 respectively. The Kingdom cut prices for April crude by 30% and stated that it intends to raise its output above 10 million barrels per day. Talks at the weekend saw OPEC and its allies fail to agree new terms for an oil production cut; OPEC+ couldn’t even agree to extend the current level of cuts, let alone deepen the cuts to battle the hit to demand from the coronavirus outbreak.
Saudi Arabia is well-positioned to weather weak prices and Russia claims it can withstand the pressure for up to a decade. US shale oil producers, who have flooded the global market with oil to take advantage of supported prices and are heavily debt-laden, could be in dire trouble.
Global equity markets have been sent tumbling. The collapse in the oil markets, combined with news that the Italian government has imposed travel bans on 16 million people, sent investors running from stocks.
US futures went limit down after triggering circuit breakers during the Asian session. After a 5% drop the Dow was indicated to open down over 1,300 points, but based upon the ETF market – which is not suspended – the Dow was looking at a drop of 1,500. Asian stocks took a hammering, with the Hang Seng and the Nikkei both closing over 1,100 points lower.
European equities sank as well, with the DAX, and Euro Stoxx 50, all off around 7%. The FTSE 100, also down 7% to test 6,000, was trading at levels not seen since the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum.
Stocks most at risk
While stocks across the board tanked, several industries were hit harder than others.
Oil majors slumped. BP (LSE) tumbled 20%, ExxonMobil dropped 17%, Chevron tumbled 16%, and Occidental cratered 38% – all in pre-market trading on the NYSE – while Royal Dutch Shell fell 14%.
Airlines were hit hard as well after the price slump left them sitting on big losses after hedging oil at higher prices. American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines were all down 5-6% in the pre-market.
Coronavirus fears weighed on tech stocks. The FAANGS all recorded losses in the range of 6-7%, but cruise ship operators were hit harder. The US government warned American citizens not to go on cruises. Carnival – the company that owns many of the ships currently stranded due to on-board quarantines – dropped 10%, Norwegian Cruise Lines tumbled 11%, and Royal Caribbean Cruises slumped 12% – all before the markets opened.
New record lows for US bonds
The flight to safety drove the yield on US government debt down to record lows. Yields move inversely to prices. The yield on the US 10-year treasury bond fell to 0.32% while the yield on the 30-year treasury note fell towards 0.7%, breaching 1% for the first time in a year.
Gold traded around $1,673 after hitting $1,700 over the weekend.
Cryptos join in with global market chaos
The cryptocurrency market is no stranger to volatility. The world’s largest cryptocurrencies were down around 10-15%, with Bitcoin falling below $8,000.
Markets still rattled by coronavirus fears after yesterday’s brutal sell-off
Investors fled to safety en masse yesterday as a spike in coronavirus cases in Italy, South Korea, and Iran raised fears that the outbreak was becoming a pandemic.
$1.5 trillion was wiped from global equity markets; the Dow recorded only its third ever 1,000 point drop, and the VIX ‘fear index’ spiked to the highest levels since January. Oil sank 4% and gold leapt to a seven-year high.
Today, the sell-off has paused, but the market is hugely indecisive.
Stocks, oil, volatile as markets await next major development
Since the European open today we’ve seen major indices like the DAX, FTSE 100, and Euro Stoxx 50 extend gains towards 1%, drop to multi-month lows, and rebound above opening levels. US stock market futures have gone from indicating a 200-point gain for the Dow on the open to minor losses, and back to signalling a positive open.
The FX market continues to see a shift towards the safety of the US dollar, although cable has managed to hold some gains despite easing back after rising to test $1.30 earlier in the session.
Gold is down around 0.8% and silver has suffered losses of more than 1.3% on profit-taking, but risk-appetite is clearly still absent as crude and Brent oil are struggling to hold opening levels. Like stock markets, the two benchmarks climbed on the open, then fell into the red, before recovering somewhat.
New coronavirus cases reported in Italy, Iran, Austria, Croatia, Tenerife
Markets are caught between buying the dips and pricing in further worrying developments. The first case of coronavirus has been reported in Southern Italy, and Austria and Croatia have reported their first cases today as well. The two Austrian cases are in the province of Tyrol, which borders Northern Italy, while the young man infected in Croatia had recently returned after spending several days in Milan.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people are being tested and many guests quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife after a case of the virus was confirmed there. Iran has also provided an update on the outbreak there: the number of cases is up to 95 and 16 people have died – the Deputy Health Minister is one of those infected.
We’ve also had a slew of companies warning that COVID-19 will impact their earnings. UK blue-chips Meggitt and Croda are weighing on the FTSE 100 after issuing warnings over the impact of the virus upon their businesses.
Markets may gain more direction when the US markets open, but even then uncertainty looks to be the order of the day.
European equities rise as China eases
Police in Hong Kong are investigating an alleged toilet paper heist, amid a shortage due to the coronavirus outbreak. Things are bad when loo roll becomes currency.
It’s a dull old session out there today: European shares were a little indecisive at the start of play following a mixed bag overnight in Asia, but are leaning higher with stimulus from China helping to lift the mood. Basic resources stocks were among the biggest gains on the FTSE as the blue chip index moved to try to reclaim the 7500 level, last some way short at 7445.
Shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai advanced as China cut a key medium-term interest rate, while Tokyo shares slipped on growth concerns. Markets are betting this will be only a part of a wider stimulus programme to offset the economic damage wrought by the Covid-19 coronavirus – the PBOC has already been injecting liquidity and there will no doubt be more to come. China reported another 2k cases by Sunday night, taking the total to more than 70k.
US stocks finished higher for the second straight week. Markets in the US will be closed today for Washington’s birthday but have rolled into the holiday in fine fettle. Industrial productions were weak, down 0.3% in January, largely down to Boeing. Ex-aircraft production, factory output rose 0.3%. Retail sales showed the US consumer started the year in decent shape, with headline sales +0.3% month on month.
There are growing fears about the economic impact. Japan’s economy shrank at the quickest pace in six years in the last quarter of 2019 – down 6.3% as the consumption tax hike hobbled the economy far worse than thought.
Most think to hit to tourism and exports resulting from the outbreak will mean the economy contracts again in the March quarter, pushing Japan into recession. Meanwhile Singapore has slashed its growth outlook for 2020.
Oil is higher above $52, having closed last week well. Look like a base has been formed at $50, looking to cement gains north of last week’s highs at $52.2.
In FX, there are tentative signs of stabilisation and basing for EURUSD. Speculators have not been this net short since Jun 2019, with net shorts at nearly 86k, contracts so the short-euro trade is very crowded. As ever this CFTC data is a week old so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next set of data showed deeper net shorts towards 100k corresponding to the dove under 1.0880. The inverted hammer on Friday suggests near term reversal but until 1.09 is reclaimed the bears remain in control.
Sterling is giving a gallic shrug to some French fighting talk vis-à-vis Brexit trade talks. GBPUSD is steady at 1.3040, with support at 1.30 and near-term resistance seen at the 50-day moving average at 1.3070.
Oil and gold spike, risk offered on US-Iran tensions
January has started 2020 with a flurry of risk-off moves as investors seek shelter from the risks of Gulf War III. The US air strike on Iran’s top general is the major focus for the markets, particularly energy markets. The killing has lit a fire under oil and gold as US-Iran tensions necessitate a higher geopolitical risk premium.
Risk is offered – European equity market sentiment is weaker on Monday morning and the major indices are lower. US markets closed weaker on Friday. Even in the event of a limited conflict in the region, I would question just how long this will persist when it entails leaning against the Fed, which looks more than ever like its happy to cut to the bone to let the economy run hot and drive inflation to 2%.
WTI spiked north of $64 but has failed to make a sustained push beyond the May 2019 highs. For this to really make a difference we should be looking for a rally above the Apr 19 highs at $66.60. If that does not get taken out then we may consider the gap to be open to filling. Brent has topped $70 for the first time in three months but again we are looking to the May 19 peaks above $73 to signal a step-change. Fundamentally oil markets are just not as exposed to oil price shocks as they were in days gone by. US shale and a host of production sources coming on stream mean the threat to global supplies from a Middle East conflict is, though significant, not gargantuan.
We have seen similar moves as those seen in the wake of the Iranian attack on Saudi Arabian facilities in September. That time the gap was filled relatively swiftly as there was no retaliation by Riyadh – there was no escalation. We are in a different territory here and a new order of magnitude, but the rules are the same.
The big uncertainties right now for crude centre on the Iranian response to the killing and on that front we should expect some kind of a response. Will Tehran target US bases? It could focus more on shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, but we have already seen attacks on a US base in Kenya killing three and rockets fired into the Green Zone in Baghdad. Iran does not need to use conventional military forces to respond and indeed so far it has not delivered a conventional military response despite all the chest thumping. It does not want to give the US further excuses to bomb it to the ground with an overt reply. Trump is no Obama – enemies believe he will strike. The White House has said it has 52 Iranian targets it will hit if Iran retaliates. European powers are calling for restraint, but the war is already raging. Whether it escalates into large-scale attacks over the coming days and weeks, and grows into a full-blown US-Iran conflict, is very hard to say. But the risk premium genie is out the bottle again.
Tehran has however all but pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement, saying it will no longer limit its centrifuges for enriching uranium. This unleashes the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear capability in the near future – given the US is already exerting ‘maximum pressure’ this risks pre-emptive actions on the part of the US a la Gulf Wars 1+2. Fundamentally there may be a bigger risk long term by Iran holding back from responding today and focussing on getting a nuclear weapon. My sense – and it is only my sense – is that if Iran responds aggressively now the US could set its nuclear programme back years with targeted strikes.
Gold is on a tear as a result of the heightened geopolitical risk and depressed US yields. Prices for gold jumped to the highest since 2013, rallying close to $1600 at $1588. We need to look for a break north of that round number and then to $1620, the March 2013 peak.
Data since the Christmas break has not been overly constructive – the US ISM manufacturing PMI fell for a 5th straight month, slipping to 47.2% in Dec from 48.1% in Nov and marking its worst reading sine Jun 2009. The effects of the trade war are biting – hopes are pinned on the US and China agreeing to the phase one deal this month or we are in for a rollercoaster.
Elsewhere, GBPUSD has settled above 1.30 having been sold off quite heavily over the first two trading days of the year. EURUSD has recovered the 1.1160 level. USDJPY has recovered 108 having taken a seven handle on haven bid. A lot of pressure on that pair as JPY finds bid but it could be overdone.
Brexit withdrawal bill vote – a majority of 80 makes this a formality.
Fed – Richard Clarida to speak. Minutes from the last FOMC meeting released on Friday show doves have won the day – worries about not hitting the 2% inflation target are prominent. Loretta Mester, a noted hawk, says she is happy to let inflation run above 2% and said accommodation is necessary. The hawks have turned.
Payrolls – Nonfarm payrolls could well show a softer Dec but seasonal numbers will make it hard to read. Fed is not doing anything but cutting anyway.
OPEC risks disappointment, US jobs report on tap
OPEC and allies are poised to formally agree to a policy of deeper production cuts, but there’s not a lot for bulls to be glad about. The 500k bpd increase to 1.7m bpd sounds good but only reflects existing over-compliance, led by Saudi Arabia, which has been pumping less than it is allowed, and it’s going to be short-lived. The deal looks at the moment to only extend through the first quarter of 2020. If OPEC doesn’t extend the curbs through to the end of next year it could act as a de facto loosening of supply that markets would punish with lower prices. There’s a real risk that even with deeper cuts OPEC fails to live up to expectations. We could of course see another meeting soon after this one to agree an extension – critical to today’s formal announcement therefore is whether there is any extension beyond March 2020. And we’ll wait to see if any arm-twisting by the Saudis forces Iraq and Nigeria into complying – but why would they bother now when they’ve not complied thus far?
Oil prices are reflecting a tinge of disappointment with WTI softening to $58.40 after hitting a high above $59 yesterday. Brent meanwhile has eased back off the $64 level to trade around $64.30 – importantly on Brent we failed to beat the November high, a sign that the market isn’t buying into this deal. The 200-day moving average remains a hurdle a little above $64. Prices for WTI and Brent are simply back to where they were before the attacks on the Aramco facilities in September. It’s all got a buy the rumour sell the fact look about it. But we must stress that if OPEC accompanies the deepening of cuts with an extension, at least to the next scheduled meeting in June, but perhaps until Dec 2020, prices could enjoy more upside.
There was good news for Saudi Arabia as Aramco priced well at the top of the range and raised $25.6bn in its IPO. A record listing values the company at $1.7tn, but we shall see where the shares head on day one. Regional and domestic investors have come good but the worry is that the big foreign institutional demand has not been there – if you’re just recirculating oil money among Arab states and Saudi households (levered) then what good has this float actually done?
In equities, Asia has been broadly higher amid more upbeat sentiment around trade talks.
Equities stumbled in Europe yesterday but the good old cocktail of trade optimism and a Friday mean they are pointing higher. However some very nasty German industrial numbers have taken the shine of European stocks ahead of the open.
Wall Street was steady with the Dow and S&P 500 trading mildly higher yesterday. Futures indicate more gains today. Trade will be the deciding factor.
After the usual pump and dump comments from Trump saying that trade talks are ‘moving right along’, we got more concrete news on trade as China agreed to cut tariffs on some pork and soybeans from the US, although it did not mention the quantities involved. This could be due to necessity from a shortage of pork because of African swine fever, more than desire to get a trade deal done, but nevertheless it’s pointing in the right direction. Nevertheless, the toing and froing of trade talks continues – we’ll be waiting for any fresh signal and will only believe a deal once it’s been served up on the table, not when the chefs say it’s in the oven.
In FX, the US jobs report is the big set piece event. A very weak ADP reading this week has forced some to revise forecasts for the NFP, although as always stressed, the ADP number is not always a reliable predictor for the NFP. Consensus is 180k but this is affected by GM workers returning. The three bears likely won’t be happy – expect more low unemployment, which is seen at 3.6%, and decent wage growth (3%). But markets are in a reasonable nervous frame of mind right now – a big miss could signal weakness in the US economy – bears are sniffing around for anything that points to recession.
Last month’s reading showed US labour market strength remains intact: we saw a strong beat for the US labour market report with nonfarm payrolls up 128k in October, well ahead of the 85k expected, whilst there were upward revisions to the prior two months. The August print was revised up 51k to 219k and the September number was hiked by 44k to 180k. The 3-month average at 176k against the 223k average in 2018
Momentum behind sterling remains solid. GBPUSD has continued to drive higher and has consolidated around 1.3160 – perhaps resting for the assault on the May high at 1.31750. Looking at the charts it’s just one bull flag after the other, but possible 14-day RSI divergence should be watched. A debate tonight between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn may produce some moves – the election is Johnson’s to lose so he simply needs to avoid any booby traps. Polls as ever need to be heeded – latest from BritainElects shows the Tory lead down to just under 10pts. At present it does not look like the gap is narrowing quickly enough for Labour to mount a serious challenge, but upon such complacency have many best laid plans gang aft agley.
The euro remains steady with EURUSD holding onto 1.110, despite some very nasty looking German industrial numbers – down 1.7% vs +0.1% expected. The collapse in German manufacturing is staggering. Whilst PMIs are indicating recovery, these numbers suggest the very opposite. USDJPY has steadied above 108.60 having found decent support on the 50-day moving average.
Elsewhere, gold was down at $1473 having encountered firm resistance on the 50-day line at $1482. At send time gold was trading at $1473, with November lows sitting at $1445.