Best in Energy – 26 January 2023

Europe’s gas-fired generators reduced output

Indonesia coal exports hit record high in 2022

South Africa’s coal exports slumped last year

U.S. oil output growth set to slow in 2023/24

Microsoft warns about revenue outlook

Higher-earners reduce hours worked ($WSJ)

Tesla discounts vehicles to drive sales ($WSJ)

U.S./Iran nuclear talks near breakdown ($FT)

CHINA’s Lower Yangtze mega-region is being hit by a wave of intense of cold which will drive a significant increase in heating demand, though most factories are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. Temperatures in Nanjing were more than -6°C below the long-term seasonal average on January 25. So far this winter heating demand (731 HDDs) has been lower than average (789 HDDs). But the recent run of cold weather has trimmed the cumulative deficit in heating demand to -7% down from -11% on January 13:  

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve rose +4 million barrels to 1,606 million barrels in the seven days to January 20. But stocks were -170 million barrels below the level a year ago and -304 million barrels below the level before the pandemic in 2019. Commercial crude stocks have increased by +33 million barrels compared with the same point last year. But only because the strategic petroleum reserve has been depleted by -220 million barrels:

Best in Energy – 13 January 2023

Germany’s gas buying intensified price spike ¹

PJM probes generator unavailability in storm

EU economy boosted by drop in energy prices

EU seeks alternatives to Russian diesel ($BBG)

China’s epidemic moves to rural areas ($BBG)

Tesla discounts cars after missing sales target

¹ Germany’s government-directed gas buying in the spot market likely contributed to the spike in prices in summer 2022 and subsequent slump in winter 2022/23. Price spikes normally occur when a price-insensitive buyer is forced into the market to buy no matter the cost and no matter how much it moves prices higher against themselves.

Spikes are often characteristic of a short-seller forced to buy back their position (“short and caught” or “he who sells what isn’t his’n, must pay the price or go to prison”).

In this case Germany purchased gas for storage regardless of cost to increase inventories and improve energy security ahead of the winter, anticipating a disruption of Russian pipeline flows. Playing the role of “forced buyer”, Germany’s buying likely caused or at least accelerated the rise in prices to record levels in August 2022. Once the forced buying was completed, however, prices corrected lower.

Some EU policymakers have suggested the spike shows the futures market “failed” in the summer of 2022 and needs to be reformed or replaced with an alternative and more representative and liquid benchmark. But arguably the market was simply responding to the presence of a very large and completely price insensitive buyer.

U.S. SERVICE SECTOR inflation appears to have peaked. But prices are still rising at an annualised rate of 5.5-7.5%, two or three times faster than the central bank target of 2.0-2.5% per year. Inflation in the labour-intensive services sector tends to be stickier than for commodities and merchandise, which is why it tends to be a focus for policymakers:

Best in Energy – 3 January 2023

Europe’s energy crisis eased by mild weather ($BBG)

U.S./Venezuela crude oil trade set to resume

Russia/China struggle to bridge gaps on Ukraine

France energy security improves on mild weather

U.S. shale oil production growth slows in 2022/23

U.S. winter storm reveals energy fragility ($BBG)

U.S. regional indicators point to future recession

Semiconductor market moves into surplus ($WSJ)

Global supply chains starting to normalise ($WSJ)

Tesla discounts to clear excess inventories ($WSJ)

United Kingdom explores more steel subsidies ($FT)

CHINA’s manufacturers reported a severe contraction in business activity in December as coronavirus infections surged following the end of the government’s suppression policy. “The epidemic has had a great impact on the production and demand of enterprises, the arrival of personnel, and logistics and distribution,” according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The purchasing managers index fell to 47.0 (1st percentile for all months since 2011) in December down from 48.0 in November (2nd percentile) and 50.1 (26th percentile) in September:

NORTHWEST EUROPE’s temperatures ended 2022 much higher than normal, sharply reducing gas consumption and pulling down prices. On December 31, the average temperature at Frankfurt in Germany was almost +14°C higher than the long-term seasonal average. Frankfurt has experienced 764 cumulative heating degree days so far in winter 2022/23 compared with a seasonal average of 901, a deficit of -15%: