Now that it is proven that even Goldman commodity downgrades have a half life of 2 days, here come the exchanges. In a move that would surprise exactly nobody, the CME announce at close of trading that it is hiking the initial and maintenance margins for Crude, WTI and Brent Tiers 1-6 anywhere from 6% to 15%. Curiously, the CME is concurrently lowering margins on a variety of natgas, gasoil and crack futures contracts. Still, the move begs the question: why did the CME not hike margins when WTI and Brent were trading about 4% higher is unclear. What is clear is that the ongoing attempt to kill the "speculators" who are solely responsible for the surge in crude prices (and not the Fed, never the Fed) will continue. As we have been saying, prepare for more deflationary downgrades of all asset classes by Goldman, especially if this latest margin hike has the same effect it has had over the past several months: none.
As part of Goldman's second hit piece in oil which the cynically inclined could interpret as merely providing Goldman with an attractive entry point to being long crude, David Greely cites supply-demand fundamentals which supposedly are "less tight." This is great. It would be even greater if it was based on fact. Because according to the IEA "crude output fell by around 890,000 b/d in March as other member states failed to make up for a sharp drop in production from conflict-riven Libya." For those unfamiliar with the lingo, this translates as follows: i) supply fell (which anyone who has taken Econ 101 is aware what it means to equilibrium price, especially ahead of Japan's imminent massive oil restocking to replace nuclear power plant capacity), and ii) Saudi Arabia was lying about its spare potential capacity. "The IEA estimated production from Saudi Arabia in March at 8.9 million b/d, unchanged from February." Yes, this is the country that was screaming from the rooftops that it would hike oil output immediately if not yesterday (since buying the eternal adoration of our citizens does not come cheap). So, we ask Mr. Greely, does he care to revise his thesis about relative "tightness" - perhaps he could phrase his point alternatively: "some of our traders would love to buy up Brent on the cheap so please sell to us post haste?"
Stratfor On The Very Real Obstacles To Libyan Ceasfire Rumors (Which Gave Goldman A Crude Entry Point)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/11/2011 17:24 -0400
With oil once again supposedly doing a headfake on the second round of Libyan peace reports (remember when Hugo "Peacemaker" Chavez was going to usher in a new era of world peace?) here is Stratfor with a much needed analysis beyond just the headlines, of the real and very deep obstacles to a ceasefire in Libya, which may pour some water over the next attempt at spinning a "give ceasfire a chance" meme, which as we predicted yesterday will last at most a day or two. As for our comment that Goldman is now merely loading up on oil, well: we were right. Following the closing of Goldman's Top trade of 2011 which told GS clients to sell Crude, Copper, Cotton And Platinum who do you think was on the other side of the trade?
Goldman Causes Selloff In Commodities: Closes Top 5 Trade Of 2011: Long Crude, Copper, Cotton And Platinum (CCCP)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/11/2011 11:29 -0400
Wondering what just took the carpet from under the commodity complex? Heeeeeere's Goldman.
I love/hate when things line up like this.
The strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction has worked so well in the "developed" world (thank you Hank Paulson, Tim Jeethner, Clearinghouse Association et al), it is time to see it in application in the "developing." In an attempt to preempt US doubts about intervening (on the proper side) in the case of escalations in Saudi Arabia (and with the possibility of Yemen becoming a potential Al Qaeda hotbed rising by the hour, this is non-trivial) the former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani told Reuters on Tuesday that "Oil prices could leap to $200 to $300 a barrel if Saudi Arabia is hit by serious political unrest." We are confident he was merely talking in a very, very hypothetical scenario. After all why scaremonger in a world in which everything is under control?
Crude Closes At Highest Since Summer Of 2008, As Energy Prices Post QE2 Rising Faster Than In 2007-2008Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/31/2011 14:58 -0400
Another "War On, War Off" day results in huge pain for all those who had expected oil to finally trend lower. Instead, the schizophrenic market decided to finally read the headlines from the past 3 days confirming that K-Daf is winning the war against Libyan rebels, even without an airforce, and despite the US' not so secret anymore CIA involvement, which among other things is likely funding and arming Al Qaeda. The end result was crude surging by nearly $3 intraday to the highest closing since August 2008, and Brent almost at $120 again while at the same time guaranteeing nosebleed(ing) inflation in Europe now that gasoline is on its way to $10/gallon. Within a day we will see just how serious OPEC was about that $120/barrel limit before it increases output, especially since it is now known that most of that excess capacity is a myth. What is far scarier, is that the annualized growth rate in Brent is higher since the Jackson Hole speech (at 127%) compared to the rate of rise entering into the Great Depression (104.25%) when the world had to blow up to bring energy prices lower. In other words, the Fed is once again back in the box where it needs to create a massive market crash to put energy prices back in their "deflationary" place.
The situation in Bahrain is going from bad to dire. Earlier, thousands of protesters marched to the Saudi embassy in the Bahraini capital, angry at the intervention of Gulf Arab forces. 1000 Saudi troops had rolled into the country at the request of Bahrain's Sunni rulers. As Reuters reports, and as Zero Hedge discussed extensively before, the troop movement could signify Saudi concern that any concessions in Bahrain might inspire the Kingdom's own Shi'ite minority. Earlier on Tuesday, the Bahrain King declared martial law as his government struggled to stop the protests. The three month state of emergency hands power over to Bahrain's security forces, which is dominated by the Sunni Muslim elite. Injured were taken to hospital as violence continued in the small Gulf island. "We came out of the tunnel and they started shooting at us and I got injured here, in the back." An opposition politician said one man was killed and several wounded in clashes with police in the Shi'ite area of Sitra. But the biggest news, that which caused crude to just jump by a dollar, is that the Iran President has called the actions by the Bahrain government "unjustifiable and irreparable." And if or rather when Iran gets involved on the basis of a religious escalation, watch out for global stagflation.
Japan's 9.0 earthquake is most likely a non-event for the crude oil, but the nuclear power basically has met its Deepwater Horizon.
Bahrain Protests Resume With A Vengeance As Interior Ministry Says "Social Fabric" In Peril, Sets Stage For Another Crude SpikeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/13/2011 12:16 -0400
As Gulf stock markets celebrate the lack of Days of Rage in Saudi Arabia on Friday, Bahrain is again reminding that not every country can buy the undying love of its citizens. Per the AP, "thousands of anti-government demonstrators cut off Bahrain's financial center and drove back police trying to push them from the capital's central square - shaking the tiny island kingdom Sunday with the most disruptive protests since calls more freedom erupted a month ago." As a reminder, in February, Bahrain was the location of some of the most graphic atrocities against protesters. Since then, a swift surge in pressure from Saudi to moderate tensions resulted in an uneasy "ceasefire" although that now appears to have ended. "Demonstrators also clashed with security forces and government
supporters on the campus of the main university in the Gulf country, the
home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet." And as we pointed out before, should the Bahrain situation reach melting point, religious tensions across the area are sure to flare up: "The clashes fueled fears that Bahrain's political crisis could be stumbling toward open sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, who
account for 70 percent of the nation's 525,000 people."Add to this resumption of violence the fact that there was another round of protests in Saudi Arabia in front of the Interior Ministry on Sunday, and the "good" news from Friday are now long forgotten.
According To Goldman, Tsunami Puts 2011/2012 Japanese Rice Crop At Risk, Sees Vicious Snapback In Crude PricesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/11/2011 17:32 -0400
A just released report by Goldman's Jeffrey Currie attempts to quantify the impact of the Tsunami on the Japanese economy from a commodity standpoint. Currie summarizes his conclusions as follows: "Assuming that the broader power grid infrastructure has not been permanently damaged, we believe today’s events are likely to put upward pressure on residual fuel oil and diesel cracks, LNG, UK natural gas and rice; downward pressure on naphtha cracks and Dubai spreads relative to other crude grades." Yet the thing we found more interesting than energy related bottlenecks was the disclosure toward the end of the report discussing the threat to the Japanese rice harvest: "In addition to the damage to energy infrastructure from the earthquake, the tsunami also impacted rice producing regions in Japan. While Japanese rice inventories are large, this puts the 2011/12 crop production at risk and may in turn drive Japanese rice imports higher, posing upside risk to current prices." Granted, Japan is not a big exporter of rice, but it is a top 10 consumer. Should the country's consumption (which is estimated at around 9 million metric tons) need to be satisfied by a surge in imports, and with the price of rice already dependent on the margin on speculative money, this could be the catalyst that send the grain, which has plunged in price over the past month, finally break beyond any potential manipulative price suppression schemes.
After Nomura released a report two weeks back predicting oil could rise to $220 if the MENA situation escalates, this morning SocGen's Michael Wittner has released his own scenario analysis on the possible outcomes of the 2011 revolutions. His three cases see oil within the following escalating thresholds: $110-$125; $125-$150; and $150-$200. We are fairly confident that the worst case, which as expected involves all sorts of bad things happening in Saudi Arabia, is missing an extra zero somewhere. Some key observations from the report (attached below): "The forward curve for Brent, the better indicator of global oil market fundamentals, is currently in backwardation (nearby premium, forward discount) for the next 5 years, reflecting concerns over growing physical tightness in the crude markets. The oil markets are pricing in an extended Libyan shutdown of crude exports (see below). Even on the WTI forward curve, where prices are still under pressure from local mid-continent US market conditions, the contango has eased and now only extends through 2011; from 2012 through 2015, WTI is also in backwardation. As the Libyan crisis has escalated, the latest US CFTC data show that non-commercial net length for NYMEX WTI futures has reached an all time high. This is a key indicator that a new wave of investor flows is now moving strongly into WTI and the oil complex in general. With the widespread unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region expected to continue, and the oil markets worried about further supply disruptions, the attractiveness of commodities and oil to investors has been underscored. With oil prices driving heightened concerns over inflation, oil itself is seen as a good hedge against inflation." In summary, SocGen sees about $15/bbl risk premium built into current prices, which could jump to as much as $110.
Brent Over $118, Crude Passes $107, EURUSD Above $1.40, Futures Up, Silver And Gold At Highs, Dollar In Flight To Safety FreefallSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/07/2011 08:18 -0400
It is one of those days when the flight to new reserve currency is on, with gold and silver trading near overnight highs, same for the oil complex, yet futures are also at the highs of the premarket session, purely on the ongoing monkeyhammering in the dollar, which has now completely given up the ghost as the reserve currency on yet another bout of QE3 concerns, following last night's very cautious note from Jan Hatzius. At last check the DXY was at 76.135 and plunging. As for why oil will continue whacking bits and pieces of Q1 GDP, and why Goldman will have no choice but to push for another round of dollar rape, here is Reuters with the skinny: "Brent crude rose to $118 a barrel and U.S. oil hit the highest since September 2008 on Monday as fighting in Libya disrupted its supplies and renewed concern of wider disruptions in the Middle East. While the Libyan crisis has cut supply from a country that normally provides almost 2 percent of world output, the prospect of unrest spreading to larger producers such as Saudi Arabia is a far more bullish scenario for oil markets. "The major risk remains the prospect of the political unrest spreading to the Gulf producing region," said Caroline Bain, economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit. "However, even if there is civil unrest in Saudi Arabia, it is not a given that oil production will be affected." Wrong: it is a given.
With ICE and CME margin hikes - that last bastion of supply/demand imbalance suppression - no longer having an impact on crude price, it was only a matter of time before the last theatrical measure in the price arsenal was used. Per Dow Jones: "White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on Sunday the Obama administration is considering tapping into the U.S. strategic oil reserve as one way to help ease soaring oil prices." Speaking on NBC television's "Meet the Press," Daley said: "We are looking at the options. The issue of the reserves is one we are considering. ... All matters have to be on the table." There has been support among Senate Democrats for tapping the reserves. Senator Jay Rockefeller on Thursday became the third Democrat to ask President Barack Obama to tap America's emergency oil supply to cool prices that have risen past $100 a barrel on the strife in Libya." What our esteemed politicians fail to realize that tapping the SPR is analogous to Lehman filing an 8K declaring to the world it is now tapping directly into the Fed's discount window for its liquidity - that didn't end too well. The problem with the SPR is that as a non-marginal replacement of supply it is largely a puppet: with a capacity 726.7 million barrels, the SPR holds a 34 day reserve at the US daily consumption of 21 million barrels. The picture is slightly better when considering that the US only imports 12 MMbd, meaning there is a 58 day supply. But the biggest issue that nobody is considering, is that the maximum total withdrawal capacity is physically limited to just 4.4 million barrels per day. In other words, should the MENA escalation flare up, there is no way to physically replace all the lost output. Yet what is most troubling is that even as the US is about to start using up its reserves, Asia is actively shoring up its oil, meaning that as our own oil buffer gets ever smaller, Asia could easily dictate economic terms over the OPEC cartel as soon as a few months from now if the Bernanke liberation wave does not end any time soon.
Two weeks ago Zero Hedge claimed that Saudi Arabian "gestures" to hike crude output were about as hollow as the heads of those suggesting that dealing with surging oil prices involves reducing interest rates even more (which just happen to be at zero already), mostly as a result of the country's recent adoption of "whorism" or its doomed strategy to buy the love of its citizens. The reason is that as UBS' Andy Lees noted, Saudi "will need to ramp up production by about 10% (more capital spending) without prices falling" to fill the suddenly gaping budget hole left from literally throwing $37 billion out of Bernanke's leased helicopter. Yesterday, BusinessWeek's Peter Coy essentially reaffirmed our theory verbatim in the piece "Saudi Arabia Must Keep Pumping Oil to Buy Stability"... needless to say we completely agree with this. Obviously, the bigger issue here is that as WikiLeaks recently suggested, and was reconfirmed by Jim Rogers, Saudi Arabia is simply lying about its excess capacity. Because if Saudi had indeed raised output as many have hoped for, and as Saudi has represented, it would have made up for the funding differential simply by the hike in export volume. Instead, as Reuters reports, Saudi Aramco just hiked prices on oil to customers in Asia and Europe up substantially. This, at least to us, does not appear like the rational action of a player seeking to moderate surging oil prices to avoid further social conflict, and one who can plug offline capacity.