Best in Energy – 17 October 2022

[MUST READ] U.S./China relations in Xi Jinping era ($WSJ)

[MUST READ] Nuclear war lessons from past crises ($WSJ)

[MUST READ] China prioritises energy security ($BBG)

Europe’s gas supply still at risk from cold winter weather

EU tries to reach internal consensus on capping gas prices

OPEC+ officials defend Saudi Arabia after U.S. criticism

NOPEC law would escalate U.S./Saudi tensions ($BBG)

California drought drains Lake Shasta ($WSJ)

China plans to boost coal and oil inventories

China to stop LNG resales to Europe ($BBG)

Retailers accelerate sales as inflation rises ($BBG)

Diesel shortage threatens global economy ($BBG)

EUROPE’s gas futures prices for November and December have continued to fall as regional storage facilities near maximum capacity. There is enough gas in stock to ensure supplies through the first half of the winter. But the risk to supplies in the second half and during next year’s refill season is keeping prices for 2023 high:

Best in Energy – 14 October 2022

U.S./Saudi relationship strained but not broken

U.S./Saudi recriminations over OPEC+ cut ($FT)

EU explores possible gas market interventions

U.S. electric vehicles stimulate battery boom

China tests electric-powered freighter (trans.)

U.S. winter fuels outlook (EIA)

U.S. SERVICES PRICES were rising at an annualised rate of +10.1% between August and September and were +7.4% higher than a year earlier, a sign inflation is proving persistent even as some energy and commodity prices have eased:

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect the central bank to increase its target federal funds rate to 4.75-5.00% by April 2023 up from just 3.00-3.25% at present as they try to bring inflation back under control:

U.S. DISTILLATE fuel oil shortages are worsening. Inventories fell -5 million bbl to just 106 million bbl last week and are now at the lowest level for the time of year for more than 40 years:

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Best in Energy – 20 September 2022

Germany’s auto sector emissions remain high

China boosts imports of coal from Russia

EU/Africa tensions over gas investment ($FT)

La Niña to boost winter heating in Japan ($BBG)

U.S. shale producers hit drilling limits ($WSJ)

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

Stranded asset story and the energy crisis ($FT)

Renewables and domestic energy security ($FT)

California relies on nuclear for 10% of electricity

United States is shifting policy on Taiwan ($BBG)

Coal boom leads to expansion of marginal mines

U.S. TREASURY securities with ten year maturity are yielding 3.53%, the highest since 2010, as traders anticipate the central bank will have to keep interest rates higher for longer to bring down inflation. Yields are rising at the fastest year-over-year rate since 1999. The increase is testing the downward trend in place since the mid-1980s. If the increase is sustained it will force a widespread re-pricing of most other assets:

HEDGE FUNDS and other money managers made few changes to their positions in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts in the week to September 13. There were total net purchases of +4 million barrels with buying in NYMEX and ICE WTI (+10 million) and Brent (+3 million) but sales of U.S. gasoline (-5 million), U.S. diesel (-3 million) and European gas oil (-1 million):

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Best in Energy – 14 September 2022

EU plans significant energy market overhaul

China set for turnover in economic officials

Poland to freeze household electricity prices

Equinor completes rapid sale of Russia assets

U.S. households’ real incomes are flat ($WSJ)

U.S. power generators’ carbon intensity falls

Expert interpretation of the Soviet Union

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect the central bank to boost its target federal funds rate to 4.25-4.50% by April 2023 up from 2.25-2.50% at present as officials try to bring inflation back towards their long term target. Inflation has proved faster and more persistent than anticipated implying higher interest rates and a greater probability of a hard-landing for the economy:

U.S. SERVICES prices increased at an annualised rate of +7.7% in the three months to August. Services inflation is a proxy for underlying price pressures in the economy because services account for more than 60% of consumer spending and are labour-intensive rather than energy or commodity-intensive. Service sector inflation has decelerated from a peak of +9.9% in the three months to June but remains more than three times faster than the central bank’s long-term target of a little over 2% per year:

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Best in Energy – 14 July 2022

Smart sanctions on Russia’s petroleum exports¹

EU prepares for gas shortages in winter 2022/23

Biden wants sanctions and lower oil price ($FT)

Berkshire Hathaway boosts Occidental ownership

China studies ending Australia coal ban ($BBG)²

ERCOT again appeals for electricity conservation

(see also ERCOT’s alert notice

Bolton boasts about helping plan coup attempts⁴

Urban heat islands and summer electricity ($BBG)

¹ This paper by Harvard’s Craig Kennedy published in April appears to be an early version of the price-cap plan the U.S. Treasury Department is advocating to the European Union, Japan, India and China.

² Bloomberg reports Chinese officials are preparing to recommend the lifting of the country’s ban on coal imports from Australia. The proposal is framed as a policy response to concerns about coal shortages stemming from sanctions on Russia. But China does not need Australian coal at the moment given the slowdown in the domestic economy, rapidly rising domestic coal production, and the huge increase in hydropower generation. The proposal therefore appears to be primarily diplomatic – part of détente between China and the new government in Canberra. The question is what China would hope to receive in return: de-escalation of the conflict, generalised goodwill and a reset in the relationship, or something more concrete?

³ Visible only to IP addresses in the United States or via a VPN

⁴ U.S. government involvement in the overthrow of foreign governments is widely known, including Iran (1953) and Chile (1973). But it is rare for a recently serving senior official to acknowledge the fact. There is always a large gap between what we “know” in the sense of being overwhelmingly probable and what we “know” in the sense of being able to prove to the satisfaction of audiences, editors and lawyers. Indiscretions by former officials are useful because they move topics from the known-suspected to the known-proven category which makes it much easier to analyse and write about them.

U.S. SERVICE SECTOR prices climbed at an annualised rate of almost +10% in the three months from April to June, a clear sign the economy is overheating. Services inflation is running at some of the fastest rates for 60 years. The three-month rate is in the 93rd percentile for all similar periods since 1960:

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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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Globalisation, commodity prices and inflation

Research note originally published in February 2008 when I was working as a market analyst at Sempra Metals. The commodity markets were in the final stages of the super-cycle (which peaked in July 2008) and early stages of a U.S. recession (activity had actually peaked in Dec 2007 but the recession was not yet recognised by most commentators or announced by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research until Dec 2008). The note is interesting in retrospect as an example of “real time” analysis around a turning point in the economy and commodity markets:

Best in Energy – 12 July 2022

Computer shipments tumble on inflation (WSJ)

Iran/Israel war is emerging from the shadows

Texas averts blackouts with voluntary conservation

U.K. utility bills on course for winter crisis

U.K. retail sales fall rapidly as inflation surges

U.S. Treasury lobbies for oil price cap

Chartbook – what causes an energy crisis?*

* I will update this chartbook from September 2021 to illustrate the gas, electricity and oil crisis in 2022 triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but which was building long before as spare capacity eroded. The current energy crisis has all the four classic elements; (1) pre-crisis erosion of spare production capacity and inventories; (2) failure to appreciate increasing risk and take timely preventive action; (3) a short-term trigger that turns a potential shortage into an actual shortage; and (4) panicked reaction.  

U.S. TREASURY yield curve has continued to invert and is now trading at a premium of 9 basis points between the two-year and ten-year maturities. The yield spread is in 96th percentile for all months since 1980 and implies traders believe a significant economic slowdown is inevitable. The last occasions on which the spread had tightened this much were in January 2007, February 2006, November 2000 and September 1989:

LONDON’s temperatures have climbed sharply since the start of July and are currently +5°C above the long-term average. In contrast to the United States, peak electric load occurs in midwinter rather than midsummer. Solar and wind output is currently favourable. But distribution transformers are vulnerable to the heat:

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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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