U.S. INITIAL CLAIMS for unemployment insurance benefits have been trending upwards since the start of April, albeit from an exceptionally low base, indicating the labour market may be starting to cool:
BRENT futures for September delivery are showing characteristics of a squeeze, trading in a backwardation of almost $5 per barrel compared with October. But further forward, spreads have softened significantly in recent weeks, as traders anticipate an increased probability a recession will dampen oil consumption:
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¹ This paper by Harvard’s Craig Kennedy published in April appears to be an early version of the price-cap plan the U.S. Treasury Department is advocating to the European Union, Japan, India and China.
² Bloomberg reports Chinese officials are preparing to recommend the lifting of the country’s ban on coal imports from Australia. The proposal is framed as a policy response to concerns about coal shortages stemming from sanctions on Russia. But China does not need Australian coal at the moment given the slowdown in the domestic economy, rapidly rising domestic coal production, and the huge increase in hydropower generation. The proposal therefore appears to be primarily diplomatic – part of détente between China and the new government in Canberra. The question is what China would hope to receive in return: de-escalation of the conflict, generalised goodwill and a reset in the relationship, or something more concrete?
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⁴ U.S. government involvement in the overthrow of foreign governments is widely known, including Iran (1953) and Chile (1973). But it is rare for a recently serving senior official to acknowledge the fact. There is always a large gap between what we “know” in the sense of being overwhelmingly probable and what we “know” in the sense of being able to prove to the satisfaction of audiences, editors and lawyers. Indiscretions by former officials are useful because they move topics from the known-suspected to the known-proven category which makes it much easier to analyse and write about them.
U.S. SERVICE SECTOR prices climbed at an annualised rate of almost +10% in the three months from April to June, a clear sign the economy is overheating. Services inflation is running at some of the fastest rates for 60 years. The three-month rate is in the 93rd percentile for all similar periods since 1960:
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U.S. PETROLEUM inventories depleted by -5 million bbl to 1,686 million bbl last week. Stocks have fallen in 73 of the last 99 weeks by a total of -432 million bbl since the start of July 2020:
U.S. DISTILLATE inventories increased by +2 million bbl to 107 million bbl last week – the second consecutive weekly increase. Stocks have probably reached their seasonal low and are rising as normal at this point of the year as refineries boost crude processing to make more gasoline. But they are still at the lowest seasonal level for more than 15 years:
U.S. DISTILLATE inventories on the East Coast (PADD 1), where shortages have been most acute, fell by another -1 million bbl to 22 million bbl last week:
U.S. GASOLINE inventories fell -0.5 million bbl to 220 million bbl last week – the lowest seasonal level since 2014:
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