U.S. GAS PRICES have fallen less than $2.60 per million British thermal units from more than $9 six months ago. In real terms, prices have fallen to just the 3rd percentile for all months since 1990 down from the 86th percentile in August 2022:
¹ When policymakers appeal to “patriotism,” or decry its absence, it usually means they have run out of good arguments. When I hear arguments based on patriotism and its variants, I am instinctively suspicious about the speaker’s motivations, and try to work out how someone is trying to mislead or distract attention from their own failures.
² Coal-fired units need roughly four hours to reach full generation from a warm start and 10-12 hours from a cold start. The grid’s instruction to start warming up ensures the two massive coal-fired units at Drax will be available to help meet electricity consumption during the evening peak on December 12. Before privatisation of the U.K. electricity industry, the state-owned Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) would often keep at least one coal-fired power station warmed up but not generating so it could be brought into service at relatively short notice. Long ramping times for coal-fired units, and the enormous quantity of fuel burned before commercial generation starts, are one reason gas-fired units are more efficient and have largely supplanted them.
CHINA’s semiconductor (integrated circuits) trade – export earnings have grown rapidly, but the cost of imports has risen even faster, so the country’s trade balance has become increasingly adverse:
INDIA’s temperatures have fallen over the last week and are closer to the seasonal average, reducing electricity consumption slightly and easing stress on the power grid. The grid’s frequency has moved closer to the 50 Hz target and periods of under-frequency have become shorter and less severe, showing a closer balance between generation and demand:
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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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