Best in Energy – 29 April 2022

EU regulators defend electricity market design

India explores purchase of Russian oil assets

EU LNG imports running at full capacity ($BBG)

China admits epidemic supply disruption (trans.)

EU struggles with payment for Russian gas

Austria’s payment for Russian gas ($BBG)

EU options for sanctioning Russian oil ($WSJ)

South Asia’s fuel-oil power generation ($BBG)

U.S. REAL FINAL SALES to private domestic purchasers (FSPDP) increased at an annualised rate of 3.7% in the first quarter, accelerating from 2.6% in the fourth quarter, according to advance estimates published on April 28.

Real FSPDP excludes the effect of foreign trade as well as the temporary impact of changes in government spending and inventory accumulation and depletion, so is the most useful measure of underlying spending by households and businesses. The economy exhibited strong momentum in the first three months of the year.

But headline real gross domestic product shrank at an annualised rate of 1.4% in the first quarter as a result of negative effects from foreign trade (-3.2 percentage points), inventory accumulation (-0.8 percentage points) and slower government spending (-0.5 percentage points):

U.S. S&P 500 equity index has risen just 2.5% over the last twelve months; the slow increase is consistent with an end-of-cycle recession or mid-cycle slowdown:

U.S. CONSUMERS were the most negative about the government’s economic policy in March for seven years – with levels of disapproval consistent with recessions and mid-cycle slowdowns in the past:

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Best in Energy – 28 April 2022

India cuts electricity to industrial users

EU importers to pay for gas in roubles ($FT)

China’s major problem with vaccines ($BBG)

Poland/Bulgaria alternatives to Russian gas

Automakers revert to vertical integration

China’s passenger rail traffic down (trans.)

U.S. gas production areas

INDIA’s electricity consumption climbed to a record of more than 201,000 megawatts at the peak on April 26. But grid stability is deteriorating with average frequency trending lower and prolonged under-frequency excursions pointing to insufficient generation. Frequency is now so low for so much of the day controllers no longer appear to be trying to maintain it close to 50.0 Hz and have instead accepted a lower frequency as normal. States have begun to restrict supplies to industrial users during peak hours to maintain stability and reduce the risk of a cascading failure:

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories fell by -2 million bbl to 1,697 million bbl last week and are now down by -421 million bbl since the start of July 2020:

U.S. DISTILLATE inventories fell -1 million bbl to just 107 million bbl last week, the lowest seasonal level since 2008:

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Best in Energy – 27 April 2022

Russia halts gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria

Germany says gas transit unaffected by dispute

Germany plans to seize Russian-owned refinery

Italy explores Russian-owned refinery seizure

EU remains reliant on Russian diesel imports

Britain plans to extend coal-fired generation

India plans to boost coal imports through 2025

China to boost infrastructure spending ($BBG)

China plans major infrastructure boost (trans.)*

Narratives about inflation and recession as epidemic

World Bank warns over energy and food prices shock

Indonesia needs Russian oil to keep prices down ($FT)

* The announcement was anodyne but significant the policy meeting was chaired by the president himself and the write up is the top item across all state-controlled media and government websites (Xinhua, NDRC and State Council) emphasising importance of the investment message and signal.  

BRITAIN plans to extend coal-fired power generation at Drax to cope with gas and electricity shortages, according to the operator:

EUROPE’s gas traders were sanguine about the ability to replenish storage over the next few months ahead of next winter’s heating season, at least before Gazprom announced it would cut deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria. Benchmark futures for summer 2022 and winter 2022/23 gas have been high but stable for more than a month and the backwardation has remained narrow and also stable, indicating that most traders expected a regular storage fill:

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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 – 25 April 2022

China’s oil consumption tumbles ($BBG)

Russia’s crude oil production falls ($BBG)

Coal consumption hits new record ($BBG)

China oil and gas output rises rapidly ($BBG)

China’s growing domestic gas production

China only buyer for Russia divestments ($FT)

U.K. supermarkets limit cooking oil sales

Indonesia prohibits palm oil exports

Indonesia justifies palm oil export ban

Fuel tax cuts boost Russia’s oil revenues

Commodity currencies hit by global slowdown

Emerging markets fear reprise of 1994 tequila crisis

EU explores options for Russia oil embargo

India blackouts during hot weather ($BBG)

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories including the strategic petroleum reserve depleted by -13 million bbl to 1,699 million bbl in the week to April 15. There were large draws in crude (-13 million bbl) and distillate fuel oil (-3 million bbl) underscoring the continued shortage of oil in global markets and strong demand, for now, for middle distillates from manufacturers and freight firms:

INDIA’s electricity grid is struggling to meet demand as air conditioning and refrigeration loads climb with temperatures that have been well above the long-term seasonal average. Frequency remains well below the target of 50 Hz, with a control range of 49.90-50.05, for much of the day as there is insufficient generation. The situation seems to have stabilised since early April but is fragile with little or no spare capacity to absorb additional shocks or meet further demand:

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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 – 12 April 2022

Retail gasoline prices: rockets and feathers

EU’s proposed carbon tariff moves forward

U.S./India talks about Russia oil

OPEC warns EU about oil shock

U.S. households’ energy security

BRENT spot prices and especially calendar spreads have softened significantly and are now trading at or below levels prevailing immediately before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China’s coronavirus outbreaks and lockdowns, signs of a business cycle slowdown in Europe and North America, and the massive offer of 240 million barrels from strategic stocks by the United States and its allies have all weighed on futures near to expiry:

BRENT futures for delivery in July 2022 – the impact of the business cycle and epidemic waves on oil prices:

U.S. GASOLINE and diesel prices at the pump are still elevated despite the reduction in crude futures prices as fuel inventories remain low:

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Best in Energy – 6 April 2022

EU/Russia coal ban would strain supply ($BBG)

U.S. central bank signals rapid move to neutral

U.S. Treasury warns of economic shock ($BBG)

Europe’s economy faces energy shock ($BBG)

India’s coal imports to rise in 2022/23

Argentina’s gasoil consumption rises

Crude physical benchmarks weaken

LME sees sharp reduction in positions

California’s emissions price increases

Reuters has created new web pages where you can find all the columns by our commodities experts in one place:

* Industrial metals www.reuters.com/authors/andy-home

* Asian markets www.reuters.com/authors/clyde-russell

* Agriculture www.reuters.com/authors/karen-braun

* Energy markets www.reuters.com/authors/john-kemp

EUROPE’s midsummer-midwinter gas futures calendar spread from July 2022 to January 2023 has narrowed sharply to a backwardation of less than €4/MWh down from a record €72 in early March. To ensure inventories can be accumulated over the next six months for use next winter, without incurring large losses, the spread needs to move into contango to cover storage costs. The July 2022 futures price must fall, the January 2023 price must rise, or both. So far, both prices appear to be adjusting in the expected direction:

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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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