Best in Energy – 3 November 2022

Africa’s governments demand fair energy transition

U.S. gas production and injections drive prices lower

China’s gas consumption growth stalls in 2022

Australia’s mining companies explore renewables

Saudi Arabia’s more independent foreign policy ($FA)

South Africa’s newest coal generator damaged ($BBG)

Aero-engine makers struggle to meet demand ($FT)

Canada excludes China from lithium sector ($FT)

China’s quarantine system – an inside view ($FT)

U.S. INTEREST RATE TRADERS expect the Federal Reserve to raise its federal funds target for longer to peak at a higher level and sustain them at a higher rate than before, following a warning by the central bank’s chief. Policy-controlled interest rates are expected to continue rising until they peak at 5.00-5.25% in May 2023, up from 3.75-4.00% at present, and still be at 4.00-4.25% at the end of 2024:

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve fell by -3 million barrels in the week to October 28. Stocks have depleted in 90 of the last 122 weeks by a total of -494 million barrels since the start of July 2020:

Best in Energy – 6 October 2022

OPEC+ cuts output allocations by -2 million b/d¹

White House criticises OPEC+ cut as shortsighted

Global trade expansion set to decelerate in 2023

Germany plans tax forbearance in energy crisis

Germany warns gas consumption still too high

China’s crude processing slipped in April-June

United States to ease Venezuela sanctions ($WSJ)

U.S. interest rates and financial crises ($WSJ)

¹ Like any cartel, OPEC+ uses a set of production baselines so total group supply can be adjusted in response to changes in market demand while ensuring each member retains a fair pro rata share. Like other cartels, the baselines used by OPEC+ do not necessarily correspond to shares in actual production or capacity in the real world. Cartels often find it very difficult to reach unanimous agreement to change baselines and shares. So in most cases they end up using baselines that have some historical basis but have become out of date.

Between the 1600s and 1800s, England’s Newcastle coal cartel (known as “the limitation of the vend”) allocated larger shares to some mines than they could actually supply. Some of the older, smaller or higher-cost mines had not been able to grow output fast enough to maintain their traditional market shares. But it was easier to keep the baselines and adjust allocations up and down in line with changing market demand than to renegotiate them. OPEC+ has often faced the same problem.

For both the Newcastle coal cartel and OPEC+, total allocations were often above total supply, ensuring changes in notional allocations were normally greater than changes in actual production.

OPEC+ frames its decisions in terms of adjustments to total and individual allocations, not production. The actual change in production is often different. In this case, many OPEC+ countries have been unable to utilise their allocations fully because they have insufficient capacity. These members will not be required to reduce their actual production since it was already well under quota. The actual fall in production is therefore likely to be much smaller than the reduction in the notional allocations.

The difference between production and notional allocations has been a persistent problem in the oil market. OPEC+ decisions are usually reported as “changes in production” when they should be reported as “changes in allocations”. It may seem a harmless simplification but it is deeply misleading.

Sometimes, however, the misdirection is intentional. It allows OPEC+ to announce a large headline increase or decrease, and use it to generate a desired market or diplomatic reaction, even though the actual change in production is much smaller.

But it is more technically accurate and analytically useful to report OPEC+ decisions in terms of production allocations and then report changes in actual production separately.

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES fell by -16 million bbl in the week to September 30. There were reductions in crude (-8 million), gasoline (-5 million), distillate fuel oil (-3 million) and jet fuel (-1 million). Total inventories have depleted by -480 million bbl since the start of July 2020 and are now at the lowest seasonal level since 2004:

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Best in Energy – 26 September 2022

U.S. Treasury promotes plan for Russia oil price cap

Germany business confidence at post-pandemic low

Germany struggles to agree deals for LNG ($BBG)

Transport shares stumble on recession risk ($WSJ)

China metal trader to restructure ($BBG)

Oil futures markets are not broken ($BBG)

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expected the central bank to increase its target for the fed funds rate to 4.50-4.75% or even 4.75-5.00% by April 2023, up from 3.00-3.25% at present, as policymakers battle to reduce inflation quickly before it becomes entrenched in wage and price-setting behaviour. Rising expected rates are pushing up the dollar’s exchange value, suppressing inflation at home, but intensifying inflation and financial pressure in other advanced economies in Europe and Asia as well as emerging markets:

U.S. DOLLAR has appreciated by almost +9% over the last twelve months against a trade-weighted basket of other major currencies, as the central bank increases interest rates rapidly. The stronger exchange rate will help reduce domestic inflation but will also worsen the trade deficit:

BRITAIN’S CURRENCY has fallen to a record low against the U.S. dollar and is not far above its record lows against the euro, which will increase competitiveness but put upward pressure on the price of road fuel, gas, electricity and other imported items:

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Best in Energy – 22 September 2022

U.S/EU rivalry for high-energy industry ($WSJ)

South Korea reverts to coal generation ($BBG)

California relied on gas generation in heatwave

UAE oil firm explores Gunvor purchase ($BBG)

U.S./China banking and national security ($FT)

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect an imminent business cycle downturn is virtually certain and will be relatively severe. The U.S. Treasury yield curve between two-year and ten-year securities is more inverted than at any time since September 1981, when the economy was entering the second instalment of what proved to be double-dip recession. Like the early 1980s, the central bank finds itself forced to continue tightening monetary policy even as the economy weakens to bring inflation back under control:

LA NIÑA conditions are entering their third year, with sea surface temperatures in the central-eastern Pacific almost -1.0°C below the seasonal average last month:

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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 – 15 July 2022

White House downplays hopes for more oil

Middle East imports more Russian fuel oil

Japan plans reactor restarts before the winter

United Kingdom heads for winter crisis ($BBG)

Germany is moving into a recession ($BBG)

ERCOT confident will avoid blackout ($BBG)

U.S. household finances and inflation ($WSJ)

Russia/NATO conflict is test of resolve ($BBG)

Central banks turn hawkish on inflation

U.S. CENTRAL BANK is expected to raise short-term interest rates to 3.50-3.75% by February 2023 up from 1.50-1.75% at present to curb inflation. From the second quarter of 2023, however, policymakers are expected to start reducing interest rates as the economy slows and inflation decelerates:

U.S INTEREST RATE traders anticipate a recession has become virtually certain following the continued acceleration of inflation. The yield curve spread between 2-year and 10-year maturities is now in the 98th percentile for all months since 1990:

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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 – 16 June 2022

U.S. central bank raises interest rate by +0.75%

US/EU concern about insurance sanctions ($FT)

White House complains about refining margins

U.S. refiners respond to president’s letter

EU/Russia gas flows fall sharply

Australia’s electricity market suspension

Australia appeals for power conservation

China to centralise iron ore buying ($FT)

Biden team divided over economy ($WSJ)

U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE increased its target range for the federal funds rate by +75 basis points to 1.50-1.75%, the largest increase since 1994. In real terms, monetary policy has become increasingly stimulative because inflation has risen faster than rates. The real interest rate had fallen to -5.25% in May 2022 compared with -3.75% in May 2021 and +0.38% in May 2019. The large rise was designed to signal the central bank’s determination to bring inflation under control as well as to start making real interest rates less stimulative:

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve depleted by -3 million bbl to 1,682 million bbl last week. Inventories have fallen in 75 of the last 102 weeks by a total of -435 million bbl since the start of July 2020. Stocks are at the lowest seasonal level since 2008:

U.S. DISTILLATE INVENTORIES rose by +0.7 million bbl to 110 million bbl last week. East Coast stocks increased by +1.2 million bbl to 27 million bbl. But total stocks remain -27 million bbl (-19%) below the pre-pandemic five-year seasonal average. Although inventories have started to accumulate seasonally the deficit is not narrowing because refineries cannot make enough fuel to rebuild stocks:

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Best in Energy – 14 June 2022

Pakistan hit by long blackouts as EU diverts LNG ($BBG)

Northeast Asia’s tepid LNG imports offset Freeport blast

U.S. shale producers opt not to accelerate drilling

U.S. finances construction of rare earths plant

Yang/Sullivan hold another round of talks (trans.)

(see also far briefer statement from White House)

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect the federal funds rate to reach 3.50-3.75% by January 2023 up from 0.75-1.00% at present as the central bank attempts to bring inflation under control. If they prove necessary, increases on this scale would result in a significant slowdown in the business cycle:

DATED BRENT calendar spreads are signalling exceptional tightness over the next two months. The extreme backwardation is consistent with the disruption of Russia’s exports and the maintenance season for platforms, pipelines and fields in the North Sea. But it could also be a sign the market is being squeezed. Strong fundamentals create ideal conditions for a squeeze. “Always squeeze with the grain of the market not against it,” as a veteran trader told me over lunch many years ago:

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Best in Energy – 20 May 2022

China accelerates purchases of Russian crude*

China increases crude inventories*

China boosts energy imports from Russia ($BBG) *

U.S./China talks on Russia strategic oil purchases*

U.S./China top diplomats hold telephone talks*

United States open to Russia oil secondary sanctions*

China cuts mortgage rates sharply to boost economy

Italy boosts Russian oil imports ($FT)

Germany prepares for rationing industrial gas supply

China completes Daqing coal rail maintenance (trans.)

U.K. postal service to raise prices again as costs surge

U.K. consumer confidence lowest since at least 1974

Finland prepares for end of Russian gas flows ($BBG)

U.K. grid practises black start with renewables ($BBG)

* An interesting cluster of stories has emerged over the last 24 hours about China increasing crude oil purchases from Russia, but using the extra volumes to replenish strategic reserves, which the White House says would not violate any sanctions. The first six items should all be read in this context.

China does not report commercial or strategic reserves and there is less distinction between them than for IEA countries, so there is no way of ascertaining whether extra crude is really going into strategic inventories or being added to commercial stocks to be refined or depleted later. The concept of “replenishment” of strategic stocks is also curious because China did not join the U.S.-led emergency oil releases in late 2021 and early 2022.

An outside observer might conclude China is boosting its purchases of deeply discounted Russian crude, but the White House has decided to ignore it, at least for the time being, because it does not want to risk triggering a further rise in prices, especially before congressional elections in November, where inflation is emerging as the dominant political issue.

U.S. FINANCIAL CONDITIONS were tightening rapidly even before this week’s tumble in equity prices, as access to credit and risk capital becomes more restricted and expensive:

EUROPE’s GAS FUTURES summer-winter calendar spread from July 2022 to January 2023 has moved into a small contango of €2/MWh, down from a record backwardation of more than €70 in early March, as storage fills at record rates and inventories become more comfortable:

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