Best in Energy – 26 April 2022

China’s prolonged lockdowns hit commodity prices

EU explores options for Russian oil sanctions ($FT)

China top planner on the epidemic’s impact (trans.)

Russia/India hold talks on coking coal payments

U.S. gas-fired combined cycle electricity generators

SPR releases – authority, impact and replenishment

Whirlpool financials hit by inflation and slower sales *

* Rapidly rising prices and falling real incomes are encouraging households to postpone purchases of expensive durable goods. Reductions in durables spending often signal a slowdown in the business cycle. According to economist Robert Shiller:

“A recession, for example, is a time when many people have decided to spend less, to make do for now with that old furniture instead of buying new, or to postpone starting a new business, to postpone hiring new help in an existing business, or to express support for fiscally conservative government.” (“Narrative economics”, American Economic Association presidential address, January 2017).

U.S. HOUSEHOLDS overwhelmingly believe now is a “bad time to buy” major durable goods owing to high prices. In the University of Michigan’s latest monthly survey of consumers conducted in March, 57% of respondents said it was a bad time to purchase a major household durable item, down slightly from a record 59% in February, but otherwise the highest level since 1980. Durables are the most cyclically sensitive part of consumer spending. Spikes in the “bad time to buy” measure usually correspond to end-of-cycle recessions or at least mid-cycle slowdowns. In the survey, 42% of respondents said it was a bad time because of high prices, 7% cited uncertainty about the future, 4% said they couldn’t afford it, and only 1% cited interest rates:

FRANKFURT’s heating demand, a proxy for the major population centres of Northwest Europe, has been almost -11% below the long-term seasonal average this winter, with the heating season almost over, which has eased some of the pressure on gas inventories and helped avoid an even sharper spike in prices:

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Best in Energy – 13 April 2022

WTI’s negative price – inside story ($BBG)

India faces coal and electricity shortage

OPEC/IEA tensions break into the open

OPEC reduces oil consumption forecast

German economists downgrade outlook

CNOOC to exit U.S./U.K./Canada assets

India’s refiners buy Russian oil ($BBG)

Jet fuel supplies are tightening ($BBG)

Energy crisis ousts climate policy ($FT)

U.S. petroleum product exports in 2021

U.S CONSUMER PRICES are increasing between two and four times faster than the central bank’s target of a little over 2%. Core prices for items other than food and energy have increased at a compound annual rate of 4.0% over the last two years and were advancing at an annualised rate of 5.8% in the three months from December to March. Services prices, which are normally more stable but also more labour-intensive, increased at a compound rate of 3.4% over the last two years and were rising at an annualised rate 7.1% between December and March. The rapidly rising cost of energy, raw materials, manufactured products, freight and labour is becoming more deeply entrenched in the rest of the economy:

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Best in Energy – 11 April 2022

EU’s Russia coal ban upends market ($BBG)

U.S. SPR sales and impact on oil prices

Nigeria power grid collapses for second time

Germany expects “brief spike” in coal costs

Germany to help firms hit by sanctions ($FT)

EU divided on Russia energy embargo ($FT)

EU divided on Russia oil import ban ($WSJ)

Biomass supplies hit by Russia conflict ($FT)

U.S. transport firms raise fuel surcharges ($WSJ)

Japan orders gas companies to boost inventories

EU/Japan competition for energy imports ($FT)

China’s grain supply threatened by covid ($BBG)

U.S. nuclear generation fell in 2020 and 2021

China accelerates nuclear armament ($WSJ)

U.S. OIL AND GAS producers added +16 new rigs last week with increases in both oil (+13) and gas (+3). The total number of active rigs climbed to 689, up from a cyclical low of 244 in August 2020 but below the pre-pandemic level of 793 in early March 2020:

U.S. NET GAS EXPORTS averaged 332 billion cubic feet per month in the three months from November to January compared with 294 billion in the same period a year earlier, as a result of the growth in liquefaction capacity and strong demand from Europe and Asia:

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Best in Energy – 5 April 2022

Germany takes control of local Gazprom unit

Aramco raises crude prices to refiners in Asia

India faces coal crisis for a second year ($BBG)

U.S. intelligence sharing sets precedent ($WSJ)

China’s rail freight rose +2.8% yoy in Q1 (trans.)

U.S. TREASURY yield curve is now flat between two-year and ten-year maturities, which puts it in the 94th percentile for all months since 1990, and is a strong signal the business cycle is on course for a mid-cycle slowdown or end-of-cycle recession inside the next 12-18 months as the central bank is forced to lift interest rates to bring inflation back under control. Interest rate traders expect the Federal Reserve to boost its target overnight rate to 2.50% by the end of the year up from 0.25-0.50% currently:

BRENT’s calendar spread from Jun 2022 to Dec 2023 has narrowed sharply as the announced crude oil sales from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve depress nearby prices while the more vague promise to buy back the barrels later helps boost prices in 2023:

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories including the strategic petroleum reserve have depleted by -411 million bbl since the start of July 2020 after increasing by +225 million bbl during the first wave of pandemic and lockdowns. Inventories have fallen in 68 of the last 91 weeks. The drawdown confirms the global market has been persistently under-supplied for almost two years. Historically, market analysis has treated U.S. government-controlled stocks as purely strategic and passive and has therefore focused on inventory changes excluding the SPR. But as the SPR comes to be used more actively to manage prices, the focus will switch to inventories including the SPR as providing the best indicator of the balance between production and consumption:

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Best in Energy – 31 March 2022

White House briefs on 180 million bbl oil release

U.S./IEA oil releases have had limited impact

Sri Lanka runs out of currency to buy fuel

U.K. horticulture hit by surging gas prices

Germany’s industrial base hit by energy crisis

India’s power generation shortages worsen

Euronav tanker firm suspends Russian business

U.S. hydro output hit by western drought

White House struggles to balance goals ($WSJ)

U.S. PETROLEUM stocks outside the strategic petroleum reserve rose by +2 million bbl to 1,139 million bbl last week. But inventories are -107 million bbl (-9%) below the pre-pandemic five-year seasonal average. Stocks have declined in 65 of the last 91 weeks by a total of -323 million bbl since the start of July 2020:

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Best in Energy – 30 March 2022

Germany issues early warning of possible gas rationing

Russia tells Europe to find roubles for export payments

Russia’s oil export system handles third-country crude

EU gas oil storage rates fall to record low as stocks drop

U.S. recession inevitable says former Fed official ($BBG)

Russia’s alternative domestic payments system ($WSJ)

U.S. consumers switch brands to offset inflation ($WSJ)

Spain’s inflation rate nears 10% ($BBG)

India’s coal inventories under pressure

CHINA’s Lower Yangtze mega-region, home to more than 225 million people, has experienced an exceptionally mild winter, especially since late February. Cumulative heating demand at Nanjing has been 14.5% below normal so far, implying large savings in gas, coal and electricity consumption, and limiting upward pressure on international LNG and coal prices:

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Best in Energy – 29 March 2022

EU reviews link between electricity and gas prices

U.S./EU and the idea of a new Marshall Plan for energy

Rhine’s low water levels threaten diesel flows ($BBG)

Fertiliser prices surge as a result of war ($BBG)

Austin airport issues jet fuel alert ($BBG)*

* During the Second World War, Britain ordered inbound shipping to bunker overseas to conserve oil and coal for the war effort and reduce the number of tankers that needed to run the gauntlet of German submarine attacks in the Atlantic.

EU+UK GAS inventories hit a post-winter low of 291 TWh on March 19 according to preliminary estimates from Gas Infrastructure Europe. Stocks have since risen by around 8 TWh. The provisional post-winter low occurred on the earliest date since 2012 and fell 11-12 days earlier than the median for the last decade as a result of mild temperatures and exceptionally high prices discouraging consumption and attracting maximum imports:

EU+UK GAS inventories have depleted by 578 TWh over winter 2021/22. The drawdown compares with averages of 651 TWh over the previous five years and 561 TWh over the previous ten years. The post-winter minimum is the lowest since the winter of 2017/18. But it is only 81 TWh below the five-year average and 57 TWh below the ten-year average. Stocks have ended this winter low but not exceptionally so owing to mild weather and exceptionally high prices:

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Best in Energy – 28 March 2022

Commodity traders keep Russian exports flowing

OPEC+ officials call for increased understanding

EU carbon market operations – regulator review

IEA defers decision on energy data subscriptions

Germany’s dependence on Russian oil ($BBG)

Japan nuclear restarts win more support ($BBG)

Russia sanctions threaten LNG ship orders ($FT)

U.S. shale output limited by supply chain ($FT)

Freight costs rise in response to diesel ($WSJ)

Middle East diplomatic negotiations ($WSJ)

Shanghai financial district in lockdown (trans.)

Shenzhen relaxes coronavirus controls (trans.)

Battery storage: grid-service and load-shifting

Hedge funds position for yield curve inversion

RECESSION signals are intensifying with the two-to-ten year segment of the U.S. Treasury yield curve within 12 basis points of inverting and in the 88th percentile for all months since 1990. The U.S. economy has been in a formal end-of-cycle recession as defined by the National Bureau for Economic Research for just over 9% of the time since 1990:

U.S. OIL producers have added drilling rigs at a rate of just over 4 per week since the start of the year, essentially the same rate since August 2020, but slower than during the previous recoveries after price slumps in 2015/16 and 2008/09:

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Best in Energy –  24 March 2022

[MUST READ] U.S. shale firms and production limits

Germany warns against immediate oil embargo ($FT)

Russia’s oil flows redirected to China and India ($BBG)

Oil shocks and impact on equity valuations

Australia’s domestic gas industry and higher prices

China port congestion worsens amid lockdowns ($BBG)

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories outside the strategic petroleum reserve fell last week by another -7 million bbl to 1,137 million bbl. Commercial stocks have declined in 65 of the last 90 weeks by a total of 325 million bbl since the start of July 2020. Inventories are at the lowest level for the time of year since 2014:

U.S. SHALE firms cite pressure from investors to return cash to shareholders as the main reason for not increasing output, with almost 30% of respondents to the Dallas Fed survey saying they would not increase output faster at any price:

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