EUROPE’s gas futures prices continue to slide despite a blast of colder weather across the northwest this week reflecting the high level of inventories. Front-month futures prices closed below €45 per megawatt-hour on March 3 for the first time since August 2021:
U.S. NON-MANUFACTURING firms reported a solid increase in activity in February. The ISM non-manufacturing index stood at 55.1 (40th percentile for all months since 1997) in February, little changed from January, but up from 49.2 (7th percentile) in December. The low December reading is starting to look like an anomaly. Service providers and other non-manufacturing businesses are reporting healthier conditions than their counterparts in manufacturing and freight:
U.S. OIL DRILLING activity continued to decelerate with the number of active rigs down -8 to 592 over the week ending on March 3. The oil-directed rig count has fallen in 10 of the last 13 weeks by a total of 35 rigs (-6%):
U.S. OIL AND GAS drilling rigs fell by -7 last week to 753. The number of active rigs has fallen in five of the last eight weeks and is at the lowest since the start of July 2022. The upturn that started in August 2020 after the first wave of the pandemic has at least paused and possibly ended as drilling rates slide in response to lower oil and gas prices:
¹ China’s high-altitude balloon overflight across North America and the U.S. decision to shoot it down is being almost totally ignored by the country’s main state-controlled media, suggesting the government is still deciding its response and/or is keen not to allow the episode to worsen relations further.
U.S. OIL DRILLING is slowing in response to the slide in prices since the middle of 2022 (when WTI was trading around $120 per barrel) especially since the start of November (when it was still $90-95). Typically there is a 15-20 week lag between a change in futures prices and a change in number of active rigs. The number of rigs drilling for oil has fallen in 7 of the last 9 weeks by a total of -28 rigs (-4%). The drilling reduction is the largest since July and August 2020 when the industry was still in shock after the first wave of the pandemic and the volume war between Russia and Saudi Arabia:
U.S. OIL PRODUCERS increased the number of rigs drilling for oil to 622 on November 10 up from 610 two weeks earlier. Drilling increased significantly for the first time since July. The number of active rigs has rebounded from a pandemic low of just 172 in August 2020 and is nearing the pre-pandemic level of 683 in early March 2020.
But the resumption has been much slower than after the two previous downturns. The rig count has risen by a total of +450 (+3.8 per week) over the 117 weeks since August 2020 compared with an increase of +544 (+4.6 per week) at the same point after the last cyclical low in 2016 and +885 (+7.6 per week) after the cyclical low in 2009: