Best in Energy – 4 July 2022

Australia’s export earnings rise on energy prices

South Africa’s electricity shortages are worsening

U.K. electricity pricing – space and time (parts 1-3)

Biden/Bezos disagree on causes of inflation ($FT)

U.S. government split on lifting China tariffs ($FT)

NATO’s resolve tested by economic downturn ($FT)

U.S. refineries push crude processing to limit ($BBG)

U.S. CENTRAL BANK is now expected to raise rates earlier and more aggressively to bring inflation under control, with traders anticipating rates will peak around the end of the first quarter or the start of the second quarter of 2023. By implication, the business cycle is expected to slow significantly by the end of this year, creating conditions for inflation to moderate and the central bank to begin easing interest rates a few months later by the second quarter of 2023:

U.S. MANUFACTURERS reported much slower growth last month. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM)’s purchasing managers’ index slid to 53.0 in June (45th percentile since 1980) from 56.1 in May (76th percentile) and 60.9 a year ago (97th percentile):

U.S. MANUFACTURERS reported a decline in new orders for the first time since the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. The ISM new orders index slumped to 49.2 in June (18th percentile) from 55.1 in May (45th percentile):

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Best in Energy – 30 June 2022

Uniper appeals for state support as gas crisis worsens

India/Russia/China trilateral trade of cement for yuan

Energy conservation as response to Ukraine war ($FP)

Tokyo scrapes through heatwave and power shortage

Vietnam to cut gasoline import tariffs to limit inflation

U.S. central bank refocuses on inflation control ($WSJ)

U.S. refinery capacity fell in both 2020 and 2021

CHINA’s manufacturers reported a slight increase in business activity this month after lockdowns drove a contraction in April and May but it was not very widespread. The purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.2 in June (31st percentile for all months since 2011) up from 49.6 in May (10th percentile) but it was still down from 50.9 in June 2021 (59th percentile):

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic petroleum reserve fell -1 million bbl to 1,679 million bbl last week. Inventories have declined in 77 of the last 102 weeks by a total of -439 million bbl since the start of July 2020. Stocks are now at the lowest level since October 2008:

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Best in Energy – 1 June 2022

The United Kingdom has a two-day public holiday on Thursday and Friday to celebrate the sovereign’s platinum jubilee, so Best in Energy will resume on Monday.

OPEC ⁺ explores suspending Russia allocation ($WSJ)

Russia prepares to re-route oil from Europe to Asia

India’s private refiners benefit from cheap Russian oil

India’s record renewables output eases coal shortage

Africa pushes back against emissions hypocrisy ($FT)

U.S. retailers attempt to resist price increases ($WSJ)

Global diesel and gasoline shortage raises prices ($FT)

U.S. residential use of air-conditioning reaches 88%

OPEC’s spare capacity and market stabilisation

EUROZONE manufacturers reported a further slowdown in growth last month as rapid inflation and the war between Russia and Ukraine took their toll. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index slipped to 54.6 in May (65th percentile) from 55.5 in April (74th percentile) and 63.1 in the same month last year (100th percentile):

EUROPE’s gas futures summer-winter calendar spread from July 2022 to January 2023 is moving deeper into contango as inventories rise at the fastest rate on record alleviating some concerns about filling storage sites:

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Best in Energy – 19 May 2022

India’s grid is struggling to supply record demand

(see also background article on power shortages)

U.S. grid faces reliability challenges this summer

Indonesia boosts energy subsidies by $24 billion

EU elects to turn from Russia gas back to coal ($FT)

Bloomberg’s plan to shake up UK journalism ($BBG)

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories including the strategic petroleum reserve depleted by another 8 million bbl to 1,691 million bbl last week. Inventories have depleted in 72 of the last 98 weeks by a total of 426 million bbl since the start of July 2020. The persistent shortage of oil is putting intense upward pressure on prices:

U.S. GASOLINE stocks fell by 5 million bbl to 220 million bbl in the week to May 13. Inventories have fallen for 14 of the last 15 weeks by a total of 30 million bbl and are now at the lowest for the time of year since 2014:

U.S S&P 500 equity index has fallen by 7% compared with the same period a year ago, and is down by 15% in real terms, as investors anticipate an imminent business cycle slowdown:

U.K. INFLATION has accelerated to 9%, the fastest rate since 1982 and one of the most significant price shocks since the Second World War:

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Best in Energy – 13 May 2022

China’s industrial metals exports are rising

India tries to accelerate coal imports ($BBG)

U.S. truckers hit by rising diesel prices ($WSJ)

Office return stalls in tight job market ($BBG)

U.S. FINANCIAL CONDITIONS for households and businesses wanting to  borrow or raise capital tightened again last week and are the most restrictive since the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 and before that 2012:  

U.S. INFLATION is becoming more deeply embedded in the economy with service sector prices climbing at an annualised rate of almost 8% over the last three months, the fastest increase since 1990 and before that 1982.

Some commentators have dismissed the increase inflationary pressure as a problem of supply bottlenecks rather than too much demand. Separating the supply side and demand side this way is an analytical error. Insufficient supply is the same as excess demand and vice versa.

But the data also shows inflationary pressures have spread from the energy- and raw materials-intensive merchandise sector to the labour-heavy services sector. Rapid service sector price increases usually signal the imminent arrival of a recession:

BUSINESS CYCLE turning points and phase transitions are hard to spot in advance or in real time in the official statistics because most data is published with a lag of 1-3 months. Latency in the statistical system conceals the much more rapid change in business conditions. But it may be possible to detect mid-cycle slowdowns and end-of-cycle recessions much closer to real time by focusing on the behaviour of key companies.

In presidential address to the American Economic Association in 2017, economist Robert Shiller characterised a recession as “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.”

Decisions to reduce spending, postpone expensive purchases, defer or freeze hiring are all indicators of a potential slowdown. Sometimes the reasons will be company or household specific. But if there are enough companies and households behaving in the way the likelihood of an imminent slowdown is much higher.

In that context, these recent news headlines are all indications economic momentum is slowing:

  • “Uber to cut back on spending, treat hiring as a privilege” (Wall Street Journal, May 9)
  • “Twitter freezes hiring as two senior executives leave the company” (Wall Street Journal, May 12)
  • “Amazon’s net loss prompts query: has it built too many warehouses?” (Reuters, April 29)

This is not conclusive proof the major economies are entering a slowdown, and it cannot show whether it will be a mid-cycle soft patch or something deeper that qualifies as a recession, but the headlines are strongly suggestive pattern.

Best in Energy – 11 May 2022

India’s railways struggle to transport enough coal

India relaxes coal mine environmental rules ($BBG)

Ukraine cuts Russian pipeline gas flows to Europe

Global mining is central to future energy system

BlackRock updates energy-climate investor principles

Germany plans for disruption of Russian gas supply

U.S. ammonia prices increase with global gas prices

Nigeria subsidises fuel to keep aircraft flying ($BBG)

China forecasts record rain along south coast (trans.)

China issues flood warnings along the Yangtze (trans.)

China hydro generation rises on heavy rains ($BBG)

U.K. threatens energy majors with windfall tax ($FT)

U.S. inflation – how prices are really measured ($WSJ)

CHINA generated a record 221 TWh of hydro electricity in the first three months of the year, up from 196 TWh in the same period in 2021, relieving pressure on coal and gas inventories and prices:

U.S. EQUITY PRICES signal investors expect an imminent business cyclical slowdown – either a mid-cycle soft patch or an end-of-cycle recession. The S&P 500 index is down by almost 5% compared with the end of May 2021 and down by more than 11% in real terms:

Best in Energy – 10 May 2022

U.S. gasoline and diesel prices hit record nominal highs

Germany/Qatar gas negotiations hit by disagreements

China’s gas consumption and imports decline ($WSJ)

Germany fears economic hit from gas disruption ($FT)

EU drops planned ban on shipping Russian crude ($FT)

China avoids surge in consumer price inflation ($WSJ)

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders have started to anticipate a slowdown in the business cycle that will bring inflation under control and then encourage the central bank to start trimming interest rates slightly to support growth later in 2023. Policy-controlled short-term rates are expected to peak at 3.00-3.25% by August 2023, up from 0.75-1.00% currently, before dipping slightly at the end of 2023 and into 2024.

The implied trajectory is consistent with inflation under better control by mid-2023 and a slowdown in the business cycle that will cause the central bank to shift its focus to supporting growth. A similar pattern occurred during previous interest rate tightening and “soft-landing” cycles in 1966/67 and 1994/95.

As a result, the U.S. Treasury yield curve between two-year and ten-year notes has started to steepen slightly, usually a sign of an impending business cycle slowdown that will eventually cause the central bank to reverse some of its expected interest rate rises:

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 – 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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