Now that all of the main oil producers are unequivocally committed to maximizing production, regardless of the impact prices, oil will continue to trade just like any other commodity (for example, iron ore) that is in oversupply in a competitive market. Prices will be determined as described in any standard economics textbook: by the marginal costs of the last supplier whose production is needed to meet global demand. In the 20-year period of competitive pricing from 1985 to 2004, the oil price frequently doubled or halved in the course of a few months. So the near-doubling of oil prices since mid-January’s $28 low is not surprising. But now that the $50 ceiling is being tested, we can expect the next major move in the trading range to be downward.
With the US closed for Memorial Day and UK markets also offline, overnight volumes have been weaker than normal on little newsflow. The main story remains the stronger USD which not only led to the lowest Yuan fixing since February 2011 but pushed the USDJPY as high as 111.50 overnight before paring gains. Europe’s Stoxx 600 is unchanged on poor volume, after earlier rising above the 200 DMA for the first time in 2016. US equity futures were 0.2%, or 4 points higher, currently resting just above 2,101 with the last trading day of May tomorrow expected to push the cash market over 2,100 as well.
In a world where fundamentals don't matter, everyone's attention will be on Janet Yellen who speaks at 1:15pm today in Harvard, hoping to glean some more hints about the Fed's intentionas and next steps, including a possible rate hike in June or July. And with a long holiday in both the US and UK (US bond market closes at 2pm today), it is no surprise overnight trading volumes have been dreadful, helping keep global equities poised for the highest close in three weeks; this won't change unless Yellen says something that would disrupt the calm that’s settled over financial markets.
In what has been another quiet overnight session, which unlike the past two days has not seen steep, illiquid gaps higher in US equity futures (the E-mini was up 3 points and accelerating to the upside as of this writing so there is still ample time for the momentum algos to go berserk), the main event was the price of Brent rising above $50 for the first time since November with WTI rising as high as $49.97.
The single biggest event overnight was the PBOC's devaluation of the Yuan to the lowest since March 2011, setting the fixing at 6.5693, the highest in over 5 years and in direct response to a stronger dollar, which however if one looks at the DXY remains well below the recent highs in the 100 range, suggesting for China this is only just beggining. However, the fact that there was not more volatility in onshore and offshore overnight FX also comforted the market that at the same time as its was devaluing the PBOC was also intervening in the FX market, thus providing some assurance it would not allow runaway "risk off" sentiment prevail, nor would it promote another blitz round of capital outflows, leading to another gradual levitation in overnight risk.
Poorer oil-producing countries which took out loans to be repaid in oil when the price was higher are having to send three times as much to respect repayment schedules now prices have fallen. But while these already poor and corrupt OPEC nations were the biggest losers, one country was a huge winner, the country that provided the billions in virtually risk-free, oil-collateralized loans to any country that requested them. China.
Yesterday's weak dollar headfake has ended and overnight the USD rallied, while Asian stocks dropped to the lowest level in 7 weeks and crude oil fell as speculation returned that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as next month. The pound jumped and European stocks gained thanks to a weaker EUR.
So far in May, base metals and Oil decoupled markedly. While the Oil price kept rising and moved closer to 50$, base metals fell off a cliff and descended below March lows. We believe that Oil is the errant outlier, helped by deep but temporary supply outages in Canada and Nigeria and all-time record speculative flows, and is more likely to catch down to other commodities going forward rather than the other way round. We look at Oil gyrations as short-term heavy volatility, within a long-term downward trend.
Government bonds rose and the yen strengthened as investors weighed the timing of the Federal Reserve’s next increase in interest rates and the outlook for inflation. Commodities slid, led by metals, while stocks in Europe declined. Treasury 30-year yields fell for a third day. The yen rose from near this month’s low. Futures on the S&P 500 also declined after initially jumping higher in thinly traded, illiquid tape.
"With it now taking 6.5 units of debt to produce 1 unit of GDP, additional gains from the lending channel are limited, in our view. China data already suggest diminishing returns from a flagging stimulus. Our China economic activity indicator (MS-CHEX) is at 3% versus 10% last month, while property sales in top cities have slowed to 15%Y in the first two weeks of May compared to 55%Y in April. If we think China growth softens again over the summer, the question for markets is how far ahead of this prices react. The risks are rising that the time is now."