Demand outstripping supply drives oil price action

Commodities

Supply and demand is such a simple concept – but it’s one that continues to have the biggest influence on current oil prices.

Oil trading

Another strong opening for crude oil

At the start of the week, the WTI and Brent Crude benchmark were trading at strong levels. This has been the case for some time now, so it’s not surprising to see, but for oil bulls it will no doubt be encouraging.

WTI, for example, was trading for $85.59 at its highest on Monday. It has subsequently fallen back to $83.65 on Tuesday morning, but still an overall strong position for West Texas Intermediate.

Brent has been a little more subdued but is still in a good place. The North Sea benchmark reached an on-the-day high of $85.76 on Monday. As of Tuesday, Brent futures were trading for around $85.08.

What’s driving price action this week? It’s the same old story: supply and demand.

Demand appears to still be in front of demand.

For example, supplies at the Cushing, Oklahoma depot are at three-year lows, suggesting higher throughput and less stockpiling.

US commercial inventories decreased by 0.4m bpd according to the EIA stockpile report for the week ending October 15th. They are now 6% lower than the five-year average in total.

Gauging the crude oil demand outlook vs supplies

We’ve seen much agitating from the Biden White House to try and get OPEC and allies to bring more crude to market.

Saudi Arabia, the current OPEC+ head honcho, is steadfastly refusing to do so. The world’s top oil producer is comfortable with the output levels it and its allies have agreed: an extra 400,00 bpd each month from now until April 2022.

But demand keeps on rising. The current energy crunch and possible heating switch from gas to oil is driving up forecasts. It’s estimated the global daily average could rise anywhere between 500,000 to 750,000 bpd heading into winter.

This is the basic price supporter going forward. There has been much talk of oil prices recently. Can they reach over $100? It’s a big question. Some ultra-bullish options traders are going even further, pricing in $200 per barrel oil prices by the end of December 2021.

That seems a little excessive to this reporter but there’s no doubt that oil prices are in a strong position right now.

However, there is also COVID-19 to contend with. The pandemic is by no means over. Rising cases in key crude importers could put pay to further travel and demand recovery. If the world needs to enter a second lockdown, how will oil demand cope? If that were the case, then it’s likely prices would slump.

Where next for oil? No rally lasts forever. It’s an immutable law of physics that what goes up, must come down. But while that’s talking about gravity, the weight of supply/demand could bring oil back down to Earth. Essentially, price action is all pegged to COVID-19 cases as it has been for the past nearly two years.

For now, however, oil continues to build on high demand and restricted supplies.

How to trade commodities

Commodities trading is a popular way to speculate on a wide number of different markets and assets. Here, we take a look at what it entails and how you can get started.

Commodities trading

What are commodities?

The term Commoditiesis a broad umbrella that covers many products that are pretty much essential to everyday living. In this case, it’s raw, naturally occurring materials that are then processed in thousands of different ways, before turning into products everyone uses in their daily lives.

Crude oil, metals, gold, crops, sugar and so on are all part of the commodities family. These raw ingredients are taken away and turned into food, energy, and clothing.

One thing that sets commodities apart from other tradeable products is pricing. There is a higher degree of standardisation on prices worldwide. It doesn’t matter who is producing the asset or material in question.

For instance, gold produced in a Russian gold mine or Brazilian gold mine would have the same price.

This does change from asset to asset, however. It’s not a hard or fast rule. For example, certain crude oil blends are priced differently using different benchmarks, such as Brent Crude or West Texas Intermediate (WTI).

Why do traders like commodities?

There are a number of reasons why traders like commodities.

  • Variety – With plenty of markets to choose from, traders can select to trade across a wide variety of markets.
  • Safe havens – Some commodities, like precious metals, are strong value stores. They retain their physical value – even in times of global economic turbulence.
  • Speculation potential – Prices of some commodities can be quite volatile. Just look at how oil has changed over 2020-2021 for instance. That means there is a lot of potential for high profits if you speculate correctly. However, this does mean you could lose more money too.
  • Hedging against inflation – Commodities’ value is not pegged to currencies. If a currency’s value falls due to inflation, then a commodity may hold its value in contrast. As such, many traders and investors use them to hedge against inflation.

Adding commodities to an investment or trading portfolio is also a great way to increase diversification. A diverse portfolio, in theory, is more insulated against the risks inherent to financial trading. If one instrument or asset, say equities, falls, then the commodities could help cover those losses.

What commodities can you trade?

We briefly touched on this earlier, but there are lots of different options available to would-be commodity traders.

Generally, commodities can be split into four categories:

  • Metals – This incorporates precious metals like gold and silver, as well as more common, industrial ores like iron, copper, nickel, and lithium.
  • Agricultural products – This category includes both edible and non-edible products. Wheat, grain, cocoa, and sugar are edible commodities. Cotton, palm oil, and rubber are examples non-edible commodities.
  • Energy – The energy market covers crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, coal, and heating oil. It also include renewable energy like wind power and solar.
  • Livestock – Cattle, hogs and other live animals fall under the livestock category.

What drives commodity markets?

Price action in commodities markets is defined by supply and demand. Generally, the higher the demand the higher the price and so on. Low supplies coupled with high demand can lead to high prices too.

We’ve seen this recently with oil markets. Crude oil output had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand was low and output was minimal. As of October 2021, demand is high, but output is being kept relatively scarce by producers such as the OPEC+ nations to protect prices.

However, commodities prices can be more versatile than other assets. This is because there are lots of factors at play relating to their production. For example, livestock levels may be impacted by health issues, such as foot and mouth disease. A bad harvest will impact wheat prices. Weather can affect production of commodities, such as a hurricane shutting down natural gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.

Global economic trends can affect prices too. China and India’s emergence as industrial powerhouses has caused the availability of metals like steel to drop off in other nations.

The above trends make commodities prices hard to predict. Prices can show high levels of volatility. As such, it can be seen as riskier than trading or investing in other assets. Remember: you should only invest or trade if you can afford to take any losses.

How are commodities traded?

Commodities are typically sold on exchanges, in the same way stocks are traded on exchanges. In fact, many would say the birth of trading as we know it started with 18th and 19th century merchants trading crops.

At Markets.com, we offer commodities trading through contracts for difference (CFDs). These allow you to speculate on commodity price movements without owning the underlying asset. These are leveraged products, which means you can take a position with only a fraction of the trade’s value. This means your profits can be amplified – but so can your losses.

There are also commodity exchange traded funds (ETFs). These group together a number of assets into a single basket. Some ETFs will hold the physical assets they’re cover, for example a gold ETF might hold a certain amount of bullion or coins. Some are more complicated and synthetically mimic their underlying market.

A Markets.com account will give you access to a wide range of commodity markets, as well as thousands other assets. Open yours today and start trading your way.

Where can oil go from here?

Commodities

With crude oil prices strengthening, markets are asking just how high oil can climb right now.

Oil trading

Crude starts the week on a strong footing

Two key oil benchmarks began this week in a strong position.

WTI was flitting between $81.50 to $82.28 between Monday and Tuesday, even reaching $83.17 on Monday.

Brent is closing in on all-time highs. Trading at around $84.80 at the time of writing, its only a couple of percentage points away from its October 2018 high of $86.

All good news if you’re an oil bear.

So, what’s supporting prices this week? It’s the old supply and demand struggle.

Saudi Arabia helped stoke the fires a little with its refusal to open the OPEC+ taps further. The kingdom and OPEC chief said last week it and the cartel were committed to their monthly production boosts.

Each month until at least April next year, OPEC members will be collectively upping production by 400,000 bpd.

Rapidly rising natural gas and coal prices could also benefit oil. As winter rolls in, and temperatures drop, the high costs from those two commodities could necessitate a switch to oil heating. Crude oil’s already a high-demand product as it is. Supplies are also being kept tight, at least from OPEC+.

The conditions are there for a sustained rally – but we have to be careful of market exhaustion. Support levels identified for WTI and Brent have been variously stated at $75 and $80 respectively by oil analysts.

But some market observers are much more optimistic…

Billionaire businessman suggests $100 oil price is on the way

United Refining Company Chief Executive John Catsimatidis has said he believes crude oil can hit $100 this year.

“With oil nearly at $84 this morning, we are going to see $100 oil, it looks like, there’s no sign of it stopping,” Catsimatidis said in an interview with Fox Business on Monday.

The billionaire cited inflation and rising energy costs across the board as reasons why crude might break the $100 barrier.

Catsimatidis’ comments mirror those of another big oil player: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When quizzed by a CNBC journalist during the Russian Energy Week summit last Wednesday, Russia’s leader said $100 is “quite possible”.

However, Putin toed a cautious line saying: “Russia and our partners and OPEC + group, I would say we are doing everything possible to make sure the oil market stabilizes.

“We are trying not to allow any shock peaks in prices. We certainly do not want to have that — it is not in our interests.”

It kind of is in Russia’s interest to have a high oil price. 40% of government revenue stem from hydrocarbons, but right now it appears Russia is more concerned with playing.

More US shale oil on the way?

Shale oil could spoil OPEC+’s party.

More US rigs in the Permian Basin are coming online. As it stands, the rig count is 136 rigs higher in this prime shale geography than this time last year.

Analysts believe Permian infrastructure could end up pumping out 4.9m bpd of crude by early 2022. Some are even expecting it to hit this number this month.

OPEC estimates suggest the US will add 800,000 bpd to production via shale sources next year. The EIA figure is roughly 700,000 bpd. Plenty of black gold to help calm the Biden White House’s supply jitters.

Biden and co. have been calling for OPEC and oil producers to step up their production as gasoline prices rise in the US. However, OPEC is not budging as mentioned above. I mean, if you do insist on outfitting regular cars with thirsty V8 motors, you will pay the gasoline cost. Did America not learn anything from the 70s energy crisis?

US drillers are being advised not to chase high oil prices though at the risk of drilling themselves into oblivion.

Looking at storage US commercial inventories rose 6.1m bpd according to the EIA stockpile report for the week ending October 8th. At 427.0 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are about 6% below the five year average for this time of year.

Can crude oil prices make it to the triple digits this year?

Commodities

Oil prices are mounting a strong upward charge as the natural gas crisis rolls on. The question is how far can oil go?

Oil trading

A combination of factors sent oil prices skyward over the weekend. It essentially boils down to the state of inventories, supplies being kept in check, and demand recovering from the summer’s Delta variant COVID-19 wave.

Then you can factor in the global natural gas shortage. A big part of the support crude prices are getting comes from the gas crisis in the form of fuel-switching – or at least the idea of increased fuel switching.

Oil bulls believe that Europe and Asia could pick up more oil for their power demands this winter to compensate for tighter gas supplies. More oil use = more oil demand = oil prices.

“An acceleration in gas-to-oil switching could boost crude oil demand used to generate power this coming northern hemisphere winter,” ANZ commodities analysts said in a note published earlier in the week.

If this does occur, despite Russian President Putin saying he would step in and increase gas supplies to Europe, then fuel switching could be the catalyst that sends oil prices into three-figure territory.

However, JPMorgan analysts have said they’ve yet to see any evidence of a major oil-to-gas fuel change just yet.

A note from the investment bank said: “This means that our estimate of 750,000 barrels per day of gas-to-oil switching demand under normal winter conditions could be significantly overstated.”

So, under present circumstances, the market appears to be pricing in this shift, but it might not actually occur.

Crude prices were on a strong footing at the start of the week. As of Tuesday morning, WTI futures were trading for around $80.5.

Brent crude futures are exchanging hands for $83.83.

There was talk last week that the US would be dipping into its strategic reserve, which did cause prices to wobble. However, the Department of Energy has walked back on these claims. If anything, US inventories are going up.

Oil & gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico, previously closed due to Hurricane Ida passing by, is back online. Rig counts are rising week-on-week. That means more US-sourced crude is being pumped into its domestic stockpiles. As such, there is no need to tap the nation’s strategic reserves just yet.

Crude inventories rose by 2.3 million barrels in the week to October 1st to 420.9 million barrels. Analysts were expecting a 418,000 drawdown.

Natural gas trading

The ongoing gas crisis was creating plenty of upside risk at the start of the week. However, it looks like traders were looking at improving US natural gas supplies for this week’s price action.

Warmer temperatures are playing heavily into the US 15-day weather outlook. Cold temperatures are departing from much of the US, and while unseasonable warmth is good for those who want to go out and about, it’s not so great for price action.

October demand could fall to its lowest for over forty years based on prevailing weather forecasts. It’s possible that the demand picture could extend into November too.

However, warm weather will help the injection situation.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported last Thursday that domestic supplies of natural gas rose by 118 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ended October 1st.

S&P Global Platts analysts were expecting a smaller 111 Bcf rise.

There is some way to go before stockpiles are in line with seasonal norms. Total stocks now stand at 3.288 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), down 532 Bcf from a year ago and 176 Bcf below the five-year average.

In terms of price action, Henry Hub futures were trading at $5.79 on Monday morning and looked like they were ready to challenge $5.80.

Prices pulled back to $5.40 across the Monday session leaving. They dropped further, roughly 2%, to $5.20, so last week’s major rally appears to be petering out. Where they go now seems tied in with US weather patterns. There’s still a gas shortage but as mentioned above, the focus is on what’s happening in the USA instead of Europe and Asia.

Oil surges to seven-year high on OPEC+ decision

Commodities

OPEC and allies commit to production increases sending prices on a strong upward trajectory.

Oil trading

The week’s big news is the oil price boost afforded by OPEC+’s output increase.

The cartel and its allies met virtually on Monday to discuss the state of play for its production volumes. It unanimously decided to stick with increasing output by 400,000 bpd in line with its tapering plans.

There had been some talk of OPEC+ pushing for an 800,000 bpd increase in November, with no increase to follow in December. That isn’t the case. There is a tricky tightrope to walk for the cartel regarding supply and demand, after all.

Oil jumped on news that more OPEC+ output is coming. WTI, for instance, is trading at seven-year highs with futures at $77.87 and spots at $77.70.

Brent broke above $80 on the news. At the time of writing, Brent crude futures had reached $81.69, gaining 0.48% on the day. Brent spots showed similar on-the-day growth and were trading for $81.47.

On the one hand, OPEC+ has acted to protect prices. Another argument is that there is actually not enough room to grow production further at this stage. While Saudi Arabia and the UAE have increased their export volumes by 1.9m bpd 2021, for instance, other OPEC+ members have actually seen theirs drop.

US President Joe Biden was keen for OPEC+ to expand production even further. Roughly 30m bpd of production has been affected by Hurricane Ida. While the reopening of US shale infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico is underway, Biden was hoping OPEC+ could plug the gap.

That’s clearly not the case here. Instead, OPEC+ is treading the same cautious path it has been walking for the length of the pandemic.

Baker Hughes reported a rise in rig counts for the fourth consecutive week on Friday. Rigs rose by 7 to 528 in the week ending October 1st – the highest level since April 2020. Many Hurricane Ida-hit facilities are starting to come back online, hence the increase.

Looking to US inventories, we saw a major increase EIA figures in the week ending September 24th. US commercial crude oil inventories increased by 4.6 million barrels from the previous week.

At 418.5 million barrels, US crude oil inventories are about 7% below the five-year average for this time of year.

Natural gas trading

Natural gas dropped on Friday, but as of Monday had started to make strong gains again. At the time of writing, Henry Hub futures were up 4.11%, trading at around $5.77.

The march towards $6.00 is back on.

Supply constraints remain in Europe and the UK and China is apparently hellbent on sucking up every last ounce of LNG it can get its hands on. Even Russia has begun tightening levels heading to Europe. It’s going to be a tricky couple of months in terms of supplies.

Bad for consumers? Most likely. Good for bullish traders? Possibly.

Last week’s EIA storage report triggered a broader sell off with traders feeling bearish.

Working gas in storage was 3,170 Bcf as of Friday, September 24th, 2021, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 88 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 575 Bcf less than last year at this time, and 213 Bcf below the five-year average of 3,383 Bcf.

Price action towards the end of last week indicated the presence of strong short-term sellers.

Looking to weather, in the short-term, US national demand is trending towards very low levels, according to Natural Gas Weather.

The weather service said “A messy pattern continues as numerous weather systems again impact the US this week. One system is over the Northwest, a second tracking into the Southwest mid-week, and a third extending from the Great Lakes to the South and Southeast.”

There are reports of tropical storms and hurricanes swirling over the Atlantic. Should we be looking at another Hurricane Ida, then US infrastructure could be about to take another big hit. Supplies would get even tighter.

Oil & gas stage major surge

Commodities

Crude oil and natural gas are off to a flying start this week with market conditions perfectly aligning to create strong price action.

Oil trading

It’s been an exceptionally good couple of days for oil prices.

The key WTI and Brent Crude benchmarks are heading in one direction as they carry on the momentum built up over the weekend.

As of Tuesday, WTI had passed $76.33, making 1.1% on the day, and continues on its upward trajectory.

Much can be said of Brent. The North Sea benchmark is aiming to break the $80 level. At the time of writing, Brent futures were trading for around $79.47 after making 1.15%.

Why the rally and why now? It’s a combination of tighter global supplies, trader confidence, and strong American Petroleum Institute (API) numbers. The three together have created a perfect price storm, hence the strong price action we’re currently seeing.

Firstly, it looks like energy markets are the place to be right now for traders. They appear to be pushing these new highs and are confident in the market’s overall strength.

The API’s inventories report from last week helped underpin this market confidence too. The US has long been a bellwether for oil demand – it is the world’s largest consumer after all – which makes numbers from the API or EIA particularly useful.

The API reported a 6.108m barrel drawdown for the week ending September 17th. Market estimates forecasted a decline of 2.4m.

As the US economy opens up, energy-intensive industries are starting to roar back to life, hence the higher-than-expected drawdown. It’s much the same story in developed economies worldwide as they look to return to post-pandemic normality.

As winter heating season approaches, and supplies tighten, we’re possibly going to see oil prices remain strong as temperatures drop.

Goldman Sachs is feeling particularly confident, having revised its year-end price targets up to $87 for WTI and $90 for Brent.

Goldman said: “While we have long held a bullish oil view, the current global oil supply-demand deficit is larger than we expected, with the recovery in global demand from the Delta impact even faster than our above-consensus forecast and with global supply remaining short of our below consensus forecasts.

“The current oil supply-demand deficit is larger than we expected, with the recovery in global demand from the Delta impact even faster than our above-consensus forecast and with global supply remaining short of our below consensus forecasts.”

Price action is still very much a tightrope act. With the news that US Shale is ready to start drilling, and could add up to 800,000 bpd to supplies, the supply/demand balance could be upset.

Natural gas trading

If you thought crude oil was in a strong position, wait until you see natural gas.

Natural gas prices rose sharply on Monday to reach close to yearly highs at $5.30 before soaring to an unprecedented $6.13 on Tuesday morning.

A squeeze on supply caused by Hurricane Ida is offering support in the US. A large chunk of Gulf of Mexico and Southern US infrastructure is still closed for repairs or maintenance, lowering supply levels, after being hit by Ida earlier in September.

Let’s be clear: this is a global phenomenon. Simply put, there isn’t enough natural gas currently to satiate demand.

Prices of utility gas are skyrocketing in the US, EU, and UK as well as in Asia where demand is intensifying.

Switching back to the US, we should be in the midst of a sustained inventory build-up. It’s injection season – the period where more gas is squirrelled away in anticipation of high winter demand. However, it appears that

The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed a build-up of 76 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ended September 17th. This was higher than the expected 70 BCf – but stocks remain some 598 Bcf lower than this time last year.

Looking at short-term weather-driven demand, Natural Gas Weather reports: “National demand will remain light this week as highs of 60s to 80s rules most of the U.S. and with very little coverage of highs into the 90s. Overall, national demand will be low to very low into the foreseeable future.”

Oil pulls back while gas remains strong

Commodities

Key benchmarks have dropped from highs seen last week while natural gas, while dipping, is still strong.

Oil trading

External factors have caused oil prices to peel away from the big gains made last week. Prices began falling on Friday, and they’ve subsequently stabilised a little as of Tuesday.

WTI had breached the $71 level while Brent was punching towards the $74 level. Both benchmarks were showing positive movements on Tuesday morning, with WTI up nearly 1% on the day after falling by the same level on Monday. Brent had made 0.6%.

A stronger greenback has been hitting dollar-denominated crude across the week. At the upcoming Fed meeting, markets are expecting to see more concrete stimulus tapering agreements, which has lit a small fire under the dollar.

Elsewhere, the potential collapse of Chinese property giants Evergrande is causing massive ripples around the world. The effects are starting to seep into oil markets as China ponders a potential financial crisis.

Another threat to oil prices is increased supply. Supply/demand metrics have been on a delicate balance throughout the duration of the pandemic. Adding more could upset that.

Nine new rigs have been added to US infrastructure, according to Baker Hughes, bringing the total up to 512.

Despite this, 23% of Gulf of Mexico rigs remain shuttered thanks to Hurricane Ida. We may not be seeing a US oil glut just quite yet, but it is something to think about.

In terms of demand outlook, we all know Delta variant has thrown a rather large spanner in the works this year.

However, OPEC+ has revised its demand recovery predictions for 2022 upward by 900,000 barrels. A mix of strong economic growth and higher fuel consumption should power total annual demand to 100.8m bpd next year, according to OPEC+.

The US’ decision to open up flights to fully vaccinated travellers from the UK and EU will also help generate more demand as trans-Atlantic flights pick up.

A quick look at the most recent US crude inventories report shows a 6.4m barrel drawdown. At 417.4 million barrels, US crude oil inventories are about 7% below the five year average for this time of year, according to EIA data.

Natural gas trading

Natural gas prices started the week by pulling back from the previous week’s highs. As of Monday, prices had dropped from the mid-week $5.60 level to the $5.01 mark.

It’s thought that higher winter-driven demand has already been priced into natural gas contracts, hence the prices we’re seeing now.

In the short term, US weather patterns point to medium to low demand this week, which may help bring prices back down to earth.

Working gas in storage was 3,006 Bcf as of Friday, September 10, 2021, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 83 Bcf from the previous week. Forecasts called for a 76 Bcf build-up.

As we’re in injection season, the US could be about to fall behind the 3.5 trillion cubic feet needed to satiate winter demand. If conditions are particularly harsh, then prices may rocket as temperatures drop.

For context, 2020’s winter build-up, as of the close of injection season on October 31st, was over 3.9 Tcf.

It looks like there is some catching up to do for US gas stockpiles.

Elsewhere, China’s gas consumption potential is being flagged as “stunning”. Alexey Miller, CEO of Gazprom, has said the world’s second-largest economy’s natural gas consumption is growing at a faster rate than any other Asia-Pacific nation.

According to Miller, China’s natural gas consumption increased by more than 15% in the first half of 2021. Imports increased by more than 23% during the same period.

This will all be music to Miller’s ears. In 2014, Gazprom inked a $400bn supply deal with China to deliver gas over 30 years.

Can oil reach $100 per barrel?

Commodities

Several factors could push oil towards $100 per barrel as the markets look to sustain momentum. In natural gas, we can see a supply/demand deficit supporting prices.

Oil trading

Despite the Saudi price cut for the Asian market, oil started the week fairly strongly.

Prices stabilised and have continued to hold ground at key resistance levels after OPEC-JMMC monthly talks. At the time of writing, WTI was trading for around $69.00. Brent crude is trading for $72.43.

$70 may be the real test for WTI going forward after the benchmark was pushing towards that region on Tuesday morning.

One important takeaway from oil markets at the start of the week is the size of the drawdown shown in the latest EIA crude inventories support. Crude oil inventories showed one of the highest drawdowns to date, according to EIA data for the week ending August 27th. Stocks dropped by 7.2m barrels from the previous week then. Working US crude oil inventories now stand at around 425.4m – 6% below the five-year average.

Don’t be surprised if this isn’t sustainable – not due to demand, but due to the impact of Hurricane Ida. Much of the US’ oil infrastructure lay in its path, and several rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were closed as the storm passed through. We’re likely to see lower numbers in the next report on Thursday.

Removing Ida’s impact from the equation, If conditions are right going forward, some analysts believe an $100 oil price can be reached if not this year, then in 2022.

OPEC+ is feeling particularly robust with regards to the wider demand picture. It’s upgraded its demand outlook to 4.2m bpd by 2022.

The cartel decided to stick with its 400,000bpd monthly output hikes in its September meeting. It’s a fairly harmonious realm over at OPEC+ HQ right now. September’s discussions took under an hour to reach an agreement – far shorter than the month-long tussle seen in August.

Other factors at play that could push oil towards the $100 mark include:

  • Record revenues from oil majors, particularly shale producers – According to Rystad Energy, US shale firms are on course to create record-breaking revenues this year, to the tune of $195 billion before factoring in hedges in 2021.
  • Demand recovery in China – China is the world’s largest crude oil importer. It’s not slow to act when containing new COVID-19 outbreaks. The latest Beijing lockdown halted private travel, but now apparently the city is COVID-case free, so it appears these ultra-restrictive lockdown measures work. Reports are now saying Chinese importers have picked up delivery requests and China could now be on the way to full demand recovery.

Goldman is still a firm oil bull. The investment bank estimates prices will hit $75-80 by the end of 2021.

While this is all encouraging, the simple fact is the virus is still knocking around. We are still in a pandemic. Worldwide oil demand recovery is tied in with case numbers. There are indicators that infections across the globe are starting to fall, but there is a long way to go until we’re back to normality.

Natural gas trading

Natural gas prices have continued to soar to regions not seen for years. A mixture of robust heat, flat inventories, and Hurricane Ida’s impact continue to buoy prices.

Weather is expected to heat up in key US demand areas across the coming weeks. Natural Gas Weather rates demand forecast as a medium at the time of writing, but this could increase to high along with rising temperatures.

Supply squeezes are also doing their bit to support prices. According to data from the EIA, the total average natural gas supply fell by 2.3%, or 2.3 Bcf per day, compared with the previous report week.

Drops in output are likely linked with the effects of Hurricane Ida. Much of the US’ gas production infrastructure sat squarely in Ida’s path. Two weeks later, the process of reopening gas facilities is still underway.

Prices could rise further beyond their already strong highs if this is the case. The current supply/demand deficit, particularly in hurricane-hit regions of the US, shows a market imbalance, which is partly why natural gas prices are performing well.

At the time of writing, natural gas was trading at the $4.671 level.

Working gas in storage was 2,871 Bcf as of Friday, August 27, 2021, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 20 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 579 Bcf less than last year currently and 222 Bcf below the five-year average of 3,093 Bcf. At 2,871 Bcf, total working gas is within the five-year historical range.

Oil braces for OPEC+ meeting & Hurricane Ida fallout

Commodities

Traders look to gauge the impact of Hurricane Ida on US oil and OPEC+’s September meeting this week, while natural gas seeks a supply/demand in the battered southern states.

Oil trading

Hurricane Ida smashed through US on and offshore oil production infrastructure at the weekend, leaving behind a trail of closed or damaged rigs in its wake. Even the crucial Colonial Pipeline, a vital fuel artery, was closed.

All bad news for oil prices? Yes and no. We’ve seen in the past that extensive shuttering of infrastructure can actually be bullish if it leads to a supply squeeze. High demand meeting lower output equals higher prices.

But Ida’s devastation isn’t limited to rigs, refineries, and pipeline shutdowns. We can’t forget the civilian population. Homes have been smashed. One million people in Louisiana are without power. In the current climate, the numbers of people going to work in affected Southern states will have dropped and with it fuel demand.

The picture is still blurry – but oil has managed to keep its gains from across the past week into trading this morning. The key benchmarks are approaching levels similar to those at the end of May when prices really took off.

WTI is currently trading for around $69.20. Brent futures are floating around the $72.25 level.

Oil also got another boost this week when OPEC+ members indicated it reconsider its planned output increases in the wake of new market realities.

Kuwait’s Oil Minister Mohammed Abdulatif al-Fares on Monday said: “The markets are slowing. Since COVID-19 has begun its fourth wave in some areas, we must be careful and reconsider this increase. There may be a halt to the 400,000 (bpd) increase.”

The cartel meets on Wednesday to discuss how best to proceed in a Delta-variant dominated world.

We’ve seen rising cases impact on oil demand throughout Asia and in China, although new reports suggest Chinese imports are picking up pace after a couple of months of slowing output.

OPEC+ has had to really step up its supply/demand balancing act over the last 18 months or so. It had denied President Biden’s request to open the taps wider in the last month, and this talk of halting production raises could help support prices if demand continues to fall.

US crude oil inventories experienced another drawdown in the EIA’s latest report. According to the energy agency, US crude stockpiles decreased by 3.0 million barrels from the previous week.

At 432.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are about 6% below the five year average for this time of year.

Natural gas trading

Hurricane Ida’s impact isn’t just limited to oil. The heartland of US LNG production lies in Ida’s destructive path. Some 95% of Gulf of Mexico production has been affected so far.

Onshore infrastructure in its path fared better. Any damage done has not been as serious as previously forecast

Price action still remains relatively robust. Natural gas is trading for around $4.328 at the time of writing, although it has fallen away from the yearly highs seen a couple of weeks ago.

But the real test now is demand. A million Louisiana citizens are without power. Hot temperatures are potentially on their way, but without the ability to air condition their homes, cooling gas demand may sink in these key areas. That could weigh heavily on price action going forward. We’ll know more once a concerted relief effort has been made.

Away from Louisiana, demand could be generated by hot temperatures in California, the Plains and Texas, but it remains to be seen if this will offset demand from hurricane-hit regions.

The US natural gas rig count, however, has dropped – likely shuttered as Ida made its way through the Gulf. According to Baker Hughes, the rig count dell by 5 to 97 last week. That’s the lowest seen in over two months.

Because this was hurricane-induced, however, we may see these rigs come back online soon.

Working gas in storage was 2,851 Bcf as of Friday, August 20, 2021, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 29 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 563 Bcf less than last year at this time and 189 Bcf below the five-year average of 3,040 Bcf.

Cautious tone ahead of Powell’s Jackson Hole speech

Morning Note

There has been a mixed start to the open in Europe as investors look ahead with some caution to Fed chair Jay Powell’s Jackson Hole speech. Stocks are hovering around the flatline with the FTSE just in the green. Today in London the miners are back on the front foot with energy and basic resources leading the gainers, while tech led the decline as JustEat Takeaway.com fell 3%.

Explosions at Kabul airport were the big story and clearly didn’t help sentiment in the market on Thursday. Wall St opened higher with the Nasdaq Composite hitting a record high before getting shaken lower on the violence in the Afghan capital, though broadly stocks were already having a tough session. The major US indices all ended the day down by around 0.6%.

Whilst the situation in Afghanistan removed any idea of a fresh set of closing highs on Wall Street, there was anyways a sense of caution at the highs, which may not be a bad thing for a bull as it’s not the big end-of-rally melt-up you see as a bull run consumes itself. But it’s also not a sign of total confidence in valuations and that really depends on what the Fed does next. Cyclicals showing signs of pause and investors looking for defensive/quality names.

Data was unexciting: Initial jobless claims were steady at 353k, a modest increase from the 349k last week, whilst the second reading for GDP in Q2 showed the US economy grew by 6.6%.

It’s all about today’s Jackson Hole event – lots of talk but ultimately, it’s going to come down to whether Powell talks up the taper or talks it down. Yesterday among the various ‘sideline’ chats, Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan didn’t say anything new – he expects to taper this year and hike next year but stressed the two decisions are entirely separate. James Bullard and Esther George also reiterated their view that the taper should start sooner rather than later. All three are on the hawkish end of the committee so this is not that big a deal or anything we didn’t know already. What matters ultimately is what Powell, Williams and Clarida think.

Away from Jackson Hole we have some actual data that is important – the core PCE price index, which as well know is the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. It’s expected to rise 0.3% month-on-month in July, easing from the +0.4% in June. Last month’s annual print showed inflation excluding energy and food rose at +3.5%, the fastest pace in 30 years. PCE including those more volatile elements rose 4%, the most since 2008.

Stagflation: German import prices rose 15% in July – the fastest clip in 40 years. The increase, the highest year-on-year-change since September 1981, increase from +12.9% in June and +11.8% in May. Excluding the energy component, prices rose 9%.

Peloton shares tumbled in after-hours trade after it reported a wider fourth-quarter loss and issued disappointing guidance. PTON reported a loss per share of $1.05 vs $0.45 expected as revenue growth hit the front brakes in the fourth quarter. This was partly due to the recall of its treadmills. Meanwhile it’s also cutting the cost of its Bike product by 20%. Stock is now –21% YTD as the wheels have come off this particular ‘Covid winner’. Interesting to look across the pond to our own Covid winners – Ocado is –12% YTD and JustEat –20%.

The dollar is a tad weaker, and we note that DXY has twice failed to break above 93.15 area on the hourly chart. Could retest bottom of the channel at 92.83. Breach here could up downside with a clear path to 91.80.

Dollar Index 27.08.2021

Gold: more solid footing as $1,800 is recaptured – next leg up depends on how dovish Powell sounds in the face of all this inflation.

Gold Chart 27.08.2021

Oil: Spot WTI regaining the trend line just and back above the 100-day SMA with the bullish MACD crossover confirmed.

Spot Oil Chart 27.08.2021

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