Best in Energy – 24 November 2022

China’s coronavirus cases hit record high

Russia tanker fleet too small to avoid price cap

China/India slow purchases of Russian crude

United States to relax Venezuela oil sanctions

Europe hit by high gas prices for years ($FT)

BRENT’s six-month calendar spread fell to a backwardation of just over $2 per barrel on November 23, down from almost $9 a month earlier, and a high of almost $22 in early March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. The spread has been easing consistently for a month and has fallen to its lowest level since December 2021. The business cycle downturn is expected to offset production restraint by OPEC⁺ and U.S. shale firms while traders anticipate Russia’s oil exports will continue flowing despite sanctions and the planned price cap:

Best in Energy – 22 November 2022

China hit by worst coronavirus outbreaks since April ¹

European Union proposes gas price cap, without figures

Australia’s gas consumers try to avoid high export price

Saudi Arabia boosts renewable power to export oil ($FT)

U.S./India diplomatic and economic relationship

¹ China has reported severe coronavirus outbreaks in megacities across the entire country, including Beijing and Tianjin in the northeast, Guangzhou in the southeast, and Chongqing in the southwest. Xinjiang in the northwest has been under semi-permanent lockdown for months. The central government’s lockdown and suppression strategy is failing to control transmission and disrupting the entire economy. But there is still no sign of an exit strategy that would enable the country to live with the virus, worsening the economic and oil consumption outlook for 2023.

BRENT calendar spreads for the first half of 2023 have softened significantly as traders anticipate a business cycle slowdown and China’s postponed re-opening from coronavirus will relieve some pressure on crude supplies and inventories:

Best in Energy – 21 November 2022

European refiners find themselves with plentiful crude

Europe boosts Russian diesel imports ahead of sanctions

India’s refiners seek extra Russian crude before deadline

U.S. gas inventories erase deficit with late season refills

U.S. consumer spending from pandemic savings ($WSJ)

China promotes science and technology experts ($WSJ)

Central banks go back to basics ($BBG)

BRENT spot prices and calendar spreads are retreating as traders anticipate the market will be balanced or over-supplied in 2023, after having been under-supplied continuously since the middle of 202o. Business cycle downturns across Europe, Asia and North America are expected to reduce oil consumption absolutely or relative to trend, helping rebuild depleted inventories:

Best in Energy – 26 October 2022

Semiconductor firms cut spending ($WSJ)

Europe hit by (temporary) gas glut ($BBG)

U.S. solar generation by homes and offices

EU explores options for gas price controls

Hydropower in a changing climate ($BBG)

U.S. FINANCIAL CONDITIONS have tightened as lenders adopt more conservative policies and higher prices for credit, risk and leverage. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s national financial conditions index has is in the 87th percentile for all months since 1990 up from the 24th percentile a year ago:

EUROPE’s gas futures prices have slumped for nearby delivery months as storage facilities near their maximum capacity but inventories continue to build rapidly. Calendar spreads from November through January have slumped into contango as storage is maxed out:

Best in Energy – 7 September 2022

California warns of possible power cuts

European smelters call for emergency help

(see letter from Eurometeaux trade group)

EU banks prepare to cut electricity demand

EU reverts to coal generation in crisis ($FT)

U.S. LNG export capacity

CALIFORNIA’s power grid is running short of capacity in the early evening when consumption, driven by air-conditioning, is past its late afternoon peak but still high and solar generation is rapidly fading. The load curve below for September 6 shows the strain on dispatchable generating capacity between around 1600 and 2100 hrs local time. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO)’s forecast curve shows the same problem is expected today on September 7:

BRENT spot prices and calendar spreads are consistent with a market that is still tight but past its cyclical peak. The six-month calendar spread has softened to a backwardation of $5.60 per barrel (97th percentile) from a record of more than $21 in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early March. The spread from December 2022 to December 2023 has softened to a backwardation of under $10 from a peak of $16 in early June. Softening spreads reflect an increased probability that a cyclical slowdown in the major economies will cut consumption and lead to an accumulation of inventories over the next year:

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Best in Energy – 4 August 2022

OPEC+ raises output  by de minimis amount¹

Electricity transmission links undervalued

Freeport LNG to restart partially in October

Autos/semiconductors relationship

Automakers see weakening demand

¹ Higher oil production by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies was briefed as one of the benefits from U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to the region and “reset” of the relationship with Saudi Arabia last month. The tiny output increase of +100,000 b/d was the smallest that could be announced without appearing to snub the president completely. But it raises the question of what diplomatic benefits the president achieved from the trip – if not higher oil output did he secure some other objectives? Who advised the president to make this trip, within the administration and outside? Does the president ultimately see it as a success or a disappointment?

BRENT spot prices and calendar spreads have weakened consistently in recent weeks, a sign the recent upward price cycle has begun to break down. Prices and spreads are softening in response to the increased probability of a recession dampening oil consumption:

BRENT’s calendar spread from December 2022 to December 2023 has softened to a backwardation of $7.20 per barrel, down from $16.50 in early June, and close to its lowest levels since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Traders are anticipating an imminent business cycle slowdown will relieve under-production in the oil market and stabilise inventory levels:

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Best in Energy – 25 July 2022

EU softens oil-trading related sanctions on Russia

China’s biggest coal miner boosts output (trans.)

U.K. transmission grid hits capacity limit ($BBG)

Dark tanker market grows competitive

Urban centres and heatwaves ($FT)

Oil exploration accelerates ($BBG)

China’s lessons from Russia’s war

U.S. INITIAL CLAIMS for unemployment insurance benefits have been trending upwards since the start of April, albeit from an exceptionally low base, indicating the labour market may be starting to cool:

BRENT futures for September delivery are showing characteristics of a squeeze, trading in a backwardation of almost $5 per barrel compared with October. But further forward, spreads have softened significantly in recent weeks, as traders anticipate an increased probability a recession will dampen oil consumption:

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Best in Energy – 19 July 2022

Crude’s physical tightness contrasts with recession fears¹

Germany’s chemical makers cannot cut gas further

Japan buys its most expensive ever LNG ($BBG)

China’s LNG imports set to drop in 2022 ($BBG)

China’s power generation at record high ($BBG)

U.S. labour market indicators are diverging ($WSJ)

EU calls for immediate gas consumption cut ($FT)

U.S. gasoline consumption fell in second quarter

¹ Physical crude markets are prompt cash markets and reflect the balance of production, consumption and inventories now. Financial markets reflect expectations about how production, consumption and inventories will evolve over the next 6-12 months or so and are anticipating a recession in future. There is only one price of oil. But near-term shortages are consistent with anticipating future surpluses as a result of an economic slowdown. The current strongly backwardated market structure implies oil is in very short supply right now (which has been evident from large and persistent inventory draw downs) but is expected to be more plentiful in 6-12 months time (as a result of an economic slowdown dampening oil consumption). The price structure embodies the cyclical behaviour of production, consumption, inventories and price levels:

LONDON temperatures continue to rise with the temperature at Heathrow reaching 36.3°C on July 18 up from a high of 30.6°C on July 17, with a further build in heat expected today:

U.K. POWER GRID is relying heavily on gas-fired generation to meet demand during the heatwave. Combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) have been supplying around 50% of total domestic generation in recent days:

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Best in Energy – 13 July 2022

Baltic grids prepare to synchronise to EU rapidly

OPEC predicts oil consumption to rise in 2023

Russia’s fuel exports to Middle East surge ($BBG)

China hydropower generation hits record high

U.S. homes with electric-only energy systems

China hesitates to mandate vaccination ($BBG)

Rapid inflation and its many discontents ($FT)

BRENT’s calendar spread from December 2022 to December 2023 has softened to a backwardation of $8 per barrel from $16 in early June as traders anticipate a cyclical economic slowdown will relieve some of the shortage in oil supply next year:

TEXAS electricity consumption increased at a compound annual rate of +1.5% over the last 20 years, reaching 427 billion kWh in 2021, up from 318 billion kWh in 2001:

U.K. REAL GDP rose by +0.51% in May from April, the fastest increase for four months, with particularly large increases in manufacturing (+0.87%) and construction (+1.54%):

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Best in Energy – 14 June 2022

Pakistan hit by long blackouts as EU diverts LNG ($BBG)

Northeast Asia’s tepid LNG imports offset Freeport blast

U.S. shale producers opt not to accelerate drilling

U.S. finances construction of rare earths plant

Yang/Sullivan hold another round of talks (trans.)

(see also far briefer statement from White House)

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect the federal funds rate to reach 3.50-3.75% by January 2023 up from 0.75-1.00% at present as the central bank attempts to bring inflation under control. If they prove necessary, increases on this scale would result in a significant slowdown in the business cycle:

DATED BRENT calendar spreads are signalling exceptional tightness over the next two months. The extreme backwardation is consistent with the disruption of Russia’s exports and the maintenance season for platforms, pipelines and fields in the North Sea. But it could also be a sign the market is being squeezed. Strong fundamentals create ideal conditions for a squeeze. “Always squeeze with the grain of the market not against it,” as a veteran trader told me over lunch many years ago:

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