BRENT’s six-month calendar spread has softened to a backwardation of less than $1 per barrel compared with more than $9 at the end of September and a peak of almost $22 in early March shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The spread between January and February 2023 has moved from backwardation into a small contango. Refiners and traders increased buying ahead of the planned introduction of the price cap in case it disrupts Russia’s crude exports, creating at least a temporary pause in new buying and putting pressure on the calendar spreads for nearby months:
THE NETHERLANDS was the fourth-largest gas consumer in the European Union in 2021 accounting for 11% of the total. The country’s gas consumption was down almost -33% in October 2022 compared with the prior ten-year seasonal average as a result of above-average temperatures, high prices, and energy conservation measures to reduce reliance on imported gas from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine:
CONTAINER shipping costs were down by more than -50% in November 2022 compared with the same month in 2021, as freight volumes fell and supply chain delays eased:
¹ A fixed price cap that will be reviewed regularly in the light of market conditions sounds a lot like creating an “Organization of Petroleum Importing Countries” (OPIC) with all the resulting problems of information collection, analysis, forecasting and decision-making. OPEC has struggled to be an effective market manager; there is no reason to think OPIC will be any more successful.
Some operational and policy questions for OPIC:
How will the organisation estimate current production and consumption?
How will the organisation forecast future production, consumption, inventories and prices?
Will OPIC seek input from oil traders and refiners?
Will OPIC hold regular meetings to decide policy?
How often will the organisation review and revise the price cap?
Will OPIC coordinate with OPEC and OPEC⁺ ?
What is the relationship between OPIC and the IEA?
How will OPIC respond if Russia cuts production and exports?
Will the U.S./IEA release more crude and product stocks to counter any interruption of Russia’s oil exports?
Will G7⁺ set policy unilaterally or will it take into account the interests of third-country importers (e.g. China and India)?
U.S. GAS INVENTORIES rose by +107 billion cubic feet (bcf) in the week to October 28. Inventories have increased by a total of +2,119 bcf since the start of April, the fastest seasonal rise since 2019 and before that 2015. Stocks are still -203 bcf (-5%) below the pre-pandemic average for 2015-2019 but the deficit has narrowed from -401 bcf (-14%) since mid-August:
CHINA’s currency is trading close to its lowest level against the dollar since 2008 as U.S. interest rates rise while China’s economy struggles to end the cycle of coronavirus lockdowns:
CHINA’s manufacturers reported a slight increase in business activity this month after declines in the two prior months. The purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.1 (24th percentile for all months since 2011) in September from 49.4 (7th percentile) in August and 49.0 (2nd percentile) in July. The economy appears to have stabilised but is not growing significantly as a result of repeated city-level lockdowns and travel restrictions:
U.S INITIAL UNEMPLOYMENT claims fell to 193,000 last week, implying the labour market remains very tight, which will likely keep upward pressure on interest rates:
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