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.
"Oil is a 60 vol instrument,” said the CIO. “If you’re targeting 10 vol for your fund, how much oil could you own?” he asked. “At most you put 15% of your fund in the trade.” Meaning you had nothing else in the book. “So imagine you caught 50% of the 70% crude rally. Your absolute best case would’ve been a 7.5% gross return.... Realistically your best case was more likely +2.5% on this heroic rally, which is why the industry is broken.”
The US energy sector is now trading at a roughly 7x EBITDA multiple compared to a historical average between 1x and 2x. It only gets worse from there.
We have reported for years that Russia and China have been doing everything they can to displace the use (and influence) of the US dollar. Of course, as the US has been playing geopolitical games, China and Russia have been working on strengthening their relationship with one another. At the end of 2015, China had become Russia's biggest oil customer, and as of April, Russian oil shipments to China hit a record high. Russia has also surpassed Saudi Arabia as the biggest crude exporter to China.
In the aftermath of the Panama Papers revelations, US authorities including the IRS appear to have begun a crackdown on tax evaders (if staying away from Washington D.C. for the time being for obvious reason), and according to Bloomberg they just landed a juicy target in the face of Morris Zukerman, a former head of Morgan Stanley’s energy group who now runs a private investment firm, who was indicted in Manhattan on charges of evading more than $45 million of federal and New York state taxes.
One reality in the markets is that despite the best efforts of analysts and traders, no one ever knows with any degree of certainty what will happen to the price of an investment in the future. Oil exemplifies that premise right now. All year there has been a tremendous amount of discrepancy in predictions for oil prices with some commentators looking for prices of $10 a barrel and others expecting prices near $100.
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 so many American corporations on their sickbeds, it’s a good thing we have Obamacare. Almost all of the returns since 2009 have been due to stock share buybacks! Now buybacks are in decline.
The last phase in all cases of hyperinflation is currency stabilization. This phase is inevitable whether it be because of changes introduced by the government or due to complete rejection of local currency by the population. In order for such a monetary reform to be successful, it is essential that the government first eliminate the main cause of the inflation (the budget deficit). Unfortunately, it does not seem as though the Venezuelan government has any plans to decrease spending, nor does it appear that revenue from oil will be recovering any time soon, meaning that any attempts at currency stabilization will surely fail (just as it did the last time when the bolivar fuerte was introduced in 2008). In light of this situation, it seems that Thiers’ Law is inevitable.
Earlier this week, Goldman unleashed the latest oil rally when it admitted that while the oil market will take far longer to rebalance due to rising low-cost oil production, it said that material supply disruptions are providing a boost to near-term prices. Goldman provided the following visualization of unplanned ongoing outages where it highlighted the recent stoppages in Canada, Nigeria and Libya as the most prominent. But in a surprising twist, it appears that virtually all three of the main disruptions choke points are being resolved far quicker than expected.
It will be fitting, not to mention symmetric, if stocks which yesterday closed at 7 weeks lows and red for the year, end the week the same way they started it: with a rally on no news, just more hopes that oil (which as recently as two years ago none other than Chair Yellen said said would be be "unambiguously good" if lower) will continue rising. While US markets ended yesterday's trading on a sour note, that weakness has failed to spread to the rest of the world, and global shares rebounded from a six-week low as crude and commodity prices recovered, while the yen weakened on reduced demand for haven assets.